John Phillips PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 September 2009 09:42 Edmund Andrew Phillips

Born: August 30, 1935, Parris Island, South Carolina, United States

Died: March 18, 2001 Los Angeles, California, United States

Age: 65

Cause of death: Heart failure

Notable because: Wrote 'California Dreamin' took a lot of drugs and had a 10 year incestuous affair with his daughter Mackenzie.

John Phillips was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Known as Papa John, Phillips was a member and leader of the singing group The Mamas & the Papas. He is the father of Jeffrey Phillips, Mackenzie Phillips, Chynna Phillips, Tamerlane Phillips, and Bijou Phillips.

Phillips was born in Parris Island, South Carolina. His father was a retired United States Marine Corps officer who won an Oklahoma bar from another Marine in a poker game on the way home from France after World War II. His mother was a Cherokee Indian his father met in Oklahoma. According to his autobiography, Papa John, Phillips' father was a heavy drinker who suffered from poor health.

Phillips grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, where he was inspired by Marlon Brando to be "street tough." He formed a group of teenage boys, who also sang doo-wop songs. He played basketball at George Washington High School, where he graduated in 1953, and gained an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. However, he left during his first (plebe) year. At that time the only way to leave the Academy without being sent to the enlisted ranks was for immoral behavior, poor grades or a family hardship. Phillips then attended Hampden-Sydney College on a partial athletic scholarship, but dropped out and married his first of four wives. She was Susan Adams, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia family. They had a son, Jeffrey, and a daughter they named Laura Mackenzie Phillips.

Phillips longed to have success in the music industry and traveled to New York to find a record contract in the early 1960s. His first band, The Journeymen, was a folk trio. He developed his craft in Greenwich Village, during the American folk music revival, and met his future The Mamas & the Papas bandmates Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot there. Lyrics of their song "Creeque Alley" describe this period.

While touring California with The Journeymen, he met his future second wife, the teenage Michelle Gilliam. Their affair finally forced the dissolution of his first marriage. Phillips was married to Michelle Phillips from 1962 to 1970. They had one child together, Chynna Phillips, vocalist of the 1990s' pop trio Wilson Phillips.

Phillips was the primary songwriter and musical arranger of The Mamas & the Papas. Early in the band's history, John and Michelle were responsible for writing most of the band's songs. John would often come up with a melody and some lyrics and Michelle would help him complete the lyrical portion of the song. After being signed to Dunhill Records, they had several Billboard Top Ten hits during the group's short lifetime, including "California Dreamin'", "Monday, Monday", "I Saw Her Again", "Creeque Alley", and "12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)". John Phillips also wrote "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)", the 1967 Scott McKenzie hit that was to become the Summer of Love anthem. Phillips also wrote the oft-covered "Me and My Uncle", which was the song performed more times than any other over 30 years of Grateful Dead concerts.

The Phillipses became Hollywood celebrities, living in the Hollywood Hills and socializing with stars like Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Roman Polanski. The group broke up largely because Cass Elliot wanted to go solo and because of some personal problems among Phillips, Michelle, and Denny Doherty. Michelle had been fired briefly in 1966, for having had affairs with both Denny and Gene Clark, and was replaced for two months by Jill Gibson, their producer Lou Adler's girlfriend. Although Michelle was forgiven and asked to return to the group, the personal problems would continue until the band split up in 1968. Cass Elliot went on to have a successful solo career until her death from heart failure (not from choking on the half-eaten remains of a sandwich or from a drug overdose, as is often rumored) in 1974.

Phillips released his first solo album John, the Wolf King of L.A. in 1970. The album was not commercially successful, although it did include the minor hit "Mississippi", and Phillips began to withdraw from the limelight as his use of narcotics increased.

Actress Geneviève Waïte became his third wife in 1972. The couple had two children, Tamerlane and Bijou Phillips. Reportedly, both parents were drug addicts and infidelity marked their marriage. Phillips produced a Genevieve Waite album, Romance Is On the Rise and wrote music for films and Broadway. He also wrote an unsuccessful musical which closed on Broadway during previews.

Phillips moved to London in 1973; Mick Jagger encouraged him to record another solo album. It was to be released on Rolling Stones Records and funded by RSR distributor Atlantic Records. Jagger and Keith Richards would produce and play on the album, as well as former Stone Mick Taylor and future Stone Ronnie Wood. The project was derailed by Phillips' increasing use of cocaine and heroin, substances that he shot into his body, by his own admission, "almost every fifteen minutes for two years".  In 2001, the tracks of the Half Stoned or The Lost Album album were released as Pay Pack & Follow a few months after Phillips' death.

In 1975 Phillips, still living in London, was commissioned to create the soundtrack to the Nicolas Roeg film The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie. Phillips asked Mick Taylor to help out; the film was released in 1976.

Image: Mackenzie Phillips and her father

In 1981 Phillips was convicted of drug trafficking; subsequently, he and his television star daughter Mackenzie Phillips made the rounds in the media, instructing kids and their parents how not to become addicts. This public relations campaign helped reduce his prison time to only a month in jail. Upon release, he re-formed The Mamas & the Papas, with Mackenzie Phillips, Spanky McFarlane (of the group Spanky and Our Gang) and Denny Doherty. Throughout the rest of his life, Phillips toured with various versions of this group.

Phillips was divorced from Waite in 1985. In 1986, his best-selling autobiography, Papa John, was published. He co-wrote a song for the Beach Boys, "Kokomo", which became a number one hit in 1988.

In the 1990s, his years of addiction led to the need for a liver transplant in 1992. Several months later, however, he was photographed drinking alcohol in a bar in Palm Springs, California, as published in the National Enquirer newspaper. Phillips was questioned about the photo on the Howard Stern radio show, and explained, "I was just trying to 'break in' the new liver".

The Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame on Jan 12th, 1998.

John Phillips died on March 18, 2001 in Los Angeles of heart failure at the age of 65. He is interred in an outdoor crypt at Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) near Palm Springs, California, the town he had lived in with his fourth wife, Farnaz. He left behind five children. He died just days after completing sessions for a new album. Phillips 66 was released posthumously in August 2001. September 2009, daughter Mackenzie Phillips alleged in a new memoir that she and her father had a consensual, ten-year incestuous relationship. She stated that the relationship began after Philips raped her while they were both under the influence of heavy narcotics. Genevieve Waite, his wife at the time, denied the allegations and said they were totally incongruous with his character. Michelle Phillips, John's second wife, also stated that she has "every reason to believe [Mackenzie's account is] untrue." However, Chynna Phillips, Mackensie's half-sister, stated that she believes Mackensie's claims and that Mackensie first told her about the relationship during a phone conversation in 1997, 11 years after the relationship had ended



A year and a half after she released a memoir revealing she was the victim of incest at the hands of her singer father, Mackenzie Phillips is still dealing with the fallout — a decided chill from family members, a psyche still bruised over criticism about her confession.

Phillips maintained an incestuous affair with her father for 10 years. He died in 2001.

The 51-year-old former child star has updated her best-selling autobiography, “High on Arrival,” to address the resulting storm that came from writing that her father coaxed her into bed on the eve of her wedding night, and continued an incestuous affair with her for 10 years. Her folk-rock star father, “Papa John” Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, died in 2001.

Speaking with Phillips live on TODAY Tuesday, Meredith Vieira told the actress she was surprised she didn’t see the fallout coming over her hair-raising story.

Story: Mackenzie Phillips: ‘High on Arrival’ excerpt

“I think I was very naïve,” Phillips told Vieira. “I expected, certainly, people to go, ‘Oh, that is so crazy.’ What I didn’t expect was the deeply cruel things that were said ... ‘Mackenzie Phillips banged her dad,’ or the blogs that I read.”

Perhaps less surprising was the family reaction to Phillips’ publicly airing her incest story. While Phillips told Vieira she has received waves of support from other incest victims and has unwavering support from her mother Susan Adams, other parts of her extended family are now lost to her. Her brother Jeff and celebrity stepsisters Chynna and Bijou Phillips no longer speak to her, while her stepmother, actress and former Mamas & the Papas singer Michelle Phillips, has repeatedly lambasted her incest story.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 10:51

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