Black and white promo photo of The Mamas and the Papas
Courtesy of the Rock Hall Library and Archive

Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll: "California Dreamin'"

The strong melody and evocative lyrics of "California Dreamin'" epitomized 1966 folk rock.

The Mamas (queen- sized Cass Elliot and princess waif Michelle Phillips) and the Papas (kingly John Phillips and princely Denny Doherty) were New York folk vagabonds whose post-beatnik image and soaring harmonies bridged folk rock and imminent psychedelia. Songwriter Phillips (former leader of the folk group Journeymen) originally gave "California Dreamin'" to Barry Eve of Destruction McGuire; his own quartet was to provide background vocals. When producer Lou Adler heard their remarkable singing, he scrapped McGuire's version and had them record their own. The quartet was an overnight sensation-and group harmony singing would never be the same.