It was 39 years ago today (July 29th, 1974), that "Mama" Cass Elliot of the Mamas & The Papas was found dead in a London apartment. Elliot, who had just performed two sold out performances at the London Palladium, died of what coroners ruled an apparent heart attack. Elliot, whose real name was Ellen Naomi Cohen, had been performing as solo act since the group began to splinter in 1968. That same year, according to legend, Crosby, Stills & Nash performed for the first time together in her Laurel Canyon living room -- and have dedicated their latest CD/DVD live set CSN 2012 to her.
In the following years, due to Elliot's obesity and a rumor that suggested a half eaten ham sandwich was found on the nightstand next to her bed, stories and jokes that she choked to death have cast a shadow on her legacy; despite the fact that it was noted in the coroner's report that no food was found in the singer's trachea. Another unfounded rumor was that Elliott died of a heroin overdose -- despite the fact that no narcotics were found in her blood stream.
During the Mamas & The Papas' 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, close friend and bandmate Michelle Phillips paid tribute to Elliot: "(Applause) I'd just like to say one more thing -- that I know that Cass is sitting on top of that big full moon tonight, looking down on these proceedings, wearing a size six Thierry Mugler dress (laughter), and thanking you all very, very much (applause)." )
Phillips blames David Crosby for perpetrating lies and innuendo with the allegations he made in the biography Dream A Little Dream of Me: The Life Of Cass Elliot, stating Elliot's death was caused by drug abuse: "Ask David Crosby. . . David Crosby seems to know about everybody's drug addictions and in fact, he says that she died of a heroin overdose. I'm so glad that David Crosby is also a coroner and a doctor and is so willing to make these outrageous assumptions and turn them into his truth. I am so angry at David Crosby."
Elliot is survived by her daughter Owen, who is now a mother herself, and her sister, singer Leah Kunkel, who raised Owen.
In 1978, the Who's drummer Keith Moon died in the same London apartment where Elliot died, which was owned by singer Harry Nilsson.