California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before the Mamas & the Papas is both a biography and a tribute to Cass Elliott. She was born Ellen Cohen to a father who dreamed of being an opera singer and mother who was a singer in a swing-jazz group in her youth. She idealized her dad and had a flair for the dramatic from a very young age. The book tells the story through various narrators’ points of view. It begins in 1941, covering her high school years, dropping out to be an actor, her various bands and ends just as The Mamas & Papas are beginning. It tells of her triumphs and struggles along the way. Her large size was an obstacle for record producers, but her extraordinary talent and formidable personality could not be ignored. Cass Elliot became a star.
Reading this book it is obvious that Penelope Bagieu is a fan of Cass Elliot. She writes with obvious compassion and her drawings feel alive on the page. Together they create a character worthy of our affection and admiration. California Dreamin’ is a great read and a visual treat.