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All About Cass Elliot, the Late Singer Whose Music Is Going Viral on TikTok

Known both as a solo artist and a member of the Mamas & the Papas, Cass and her 1969 song "Make Your Own Kind of Music" are the center of TikTok's latest viral trend

Donaldson Collection/Getty
Donaldson Collection/Getty

TikTok has introduced another musical legend to a whole, new demographic.

The short-form video app has a history of reviving classic songs by rock-and-roll legends due to its sound-accompanying format, and Cass Elliot's 1969 hit "Make Your Own Kind of Music" is the latest to attain viral success.

Similar to how Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" took TikTok by storm in September 2020 when Idaho native-turned-social-media-sensation (user @420doggface208) shared a clip featuring cranberry juice and a skateboard alongside the track, "Make Your Own Kind of Music" is gaining attraction due to a popular meme.


The revived classic is the musical backing to the app's latest meme, involving a scene taken from 2022's film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent starring Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal. The clip shows a scowling Cage glancing at a happy, unbothered Pascal set in a top-down convertible ride on a cliff in Majorca.

Related:Mick Fleetwood Recreates Viral Cranberry Juice 'Dreams' TikTok Video

Users have put their own spin on the movie clip, overlaying the interaction between Cage and Pascal with humorous text and Cass' song in the background. The captions primarily suggest disagreements between two people, while others prompt conversation between Cass superfans and older lovers of the artist.

Widely regarded for the musical and cultural impact made on the 1960s scene with folk quartet the Mamas & the Papas, the late Cass is further cementing her legendary status with today's generation and ones to come.

Here's everything to know about the folk singer-songwriter, Cass Elliot.

Who is Cass Elliot?

David Redfern/Redferns/Getty
David Redfern/Redferns/Getty

Cass Elliot, famously nicknamed "Mama Cass," was a Maryland native who was born in Baltimore to Philip and Bess Cohen in September 1941. After high school, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

It wasn't until college that Cass placed her focus on singing, amid her move to the Washington D.C. area to attend American University. Folk music saw its rise between the late 1950s to the 1960s, the same time she formed The Triumvirate, her first musical group.

In addition to Cass, The Triumvirate consisted of two other members: banjoist and singer Tim Rose and singer John Brown (the latter was later replaced by James Hendricks in 1963 and the band was renamed Big 3).

In the years that followed, the group underwent many changes. For a brief time, Cass even performed solo before she was recruited to join the New Journeymen — a different band consisting of Denny Doherty, John Phillips and his wife Michelle — in 1965.

Related:Mama Cass of Hit '60s Band Mamas & the Papas Did Not Die from a Ham Sandwich: What Really Happened

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

With the four-piece ensemble comprised of two females, the New Journeymen renamed the group the Mamas & the Papas. Cass is widely known for her involvement in the legendary folk-rock group but also gained independent fame when she embarked on a solo singing career after the band's split in 1968.

"Dream a Little Dream of Me," off her album of the same name, was among her biggest hits as a solo artist that same year (before she went on to release four more solo albums). She also dabbled in acting in the early 1970s.

However, Cass' distinct vocals and musical creations were the main attributions to her global successes — both as a member of the Mamas & the Papas and as a solo artist — like topping countless charts, nabbing a Grammy Award win for best performance by a vocal group in 1967 and posthumously being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Who were The Mamas & the Papas?

GAB Archive/Redferns
GAB Archive/Redferns

A defining voice of the 1960s, the Mamas and the Papas were a folk-rock musical group comprised of four members: John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and Cass. John and his wife Michelle started the band, initially calling themselves the New Journeymen.

Denny joined the husband-and-wife duo in 1965 after departing from his group, The Mugwumps. Cass, who was Denny's former bandmate in the aforementioned group, was the last to join the New Journeymen — prior to its Mamas & the Papas name change.

Legend has it that Cass was only allowed to join the band after she was hit on the head with a metal pipe, altering her vocal range. Though a myth for years, Cass seemingly confirmed the alleged instance when she spoke with Rolling Stone in 1968.

Related:The Most Infamous Love Triangles in Rock History

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

"Workmen dropped a thin metal plumbing pipe and it hit me on the head and knocked me to the ground," she said in 1968. "I had a concussion and went to the hospital. I had a bad headache for about two weeks and all of a sudden I was singing higher. It's true. Honest to God."

The Mamas & the Papas jammed together between 1965 to 1968, majorly impacting the pop and folk rock genre, in addition to influencing the emerging Southern California rock sound. Cass was regarded for her distinctive mezzo-soprano voice, while bandleader John arranged the emblematic vocal harmonies synonymous with the group.

Their unparalleled sound and creativity earned the legendary quartet critical acclaim, between a Grammy win in 1967 and 16 songs on the Billboard chart, including hits "California Dreaming" and "Monday Monday." They were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.

Did Cass Elliot have children?

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Cass was the mother of one child, daughter Owen Vanessa Elliot, whom she welcomed on April 26, 1967. As the daughter of a rock legend, Owen told Variety that she "hovered around music most of [her] life," whether it be at gigs with her mom or creating her own music. Owen sometimes sang with her friends Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips in groups that predated Wilson-Phillips.

Although Owen was raised by Cass' sister Leah and her husband Russ Kunkel, she cherishes the moments they shared together. "The childhood memories I have are not numerous, but they are vivid," Owen told the outlet of the time spent with her mom, who died when Owen was 7 years old.

Owen pointed out that Cass' desire to have a child was in part due to her lack of experiencing "real" relationships. She explained to Variety that the crowd would scream they love her, but then she'd go back to her hotel room alone. "That's why my mom had me… She wanted someone who was never going to leave," Owen said.

In October 2022, Owen honored her late mom with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame because she wanted "people to remember her legacy."

"I can't tell you the number of people over the years who have told me how much my mother's music and who she was affected them, and made a major difference in their lives," she said of Cass.

How did Cass Elliot die?

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Cass died in late July 1974 at 32. Several theories have circulated around her death, but the real cause was brought to light by people closest to her in the years that followed.

Writer Sue Cameron, Cass' friend who was with her a few nights before her death, opened up to PEOPLE about what really happened in July 1974. When Sue heard the news that her friend had died, she immediately called her apartment, to which Cass' manager — who was "hysterical" at the moment — described a plan.

"Allan said, 'You've got to tell them that she died choking on a ham sandwich. You must go to your typewriter and write that. There's a half of a ham sandwich on her nightstand,'" she recalled. "I didn't ask any questions," Sue said, then a columnist at The Hollywood Reporter, who later wrote about the ordeal in her 2018 book Hollywood Secrets and Scandals.

Related:Mama Cass of Hit '60s Band Mamas & the Papas Did Not Die from a Ham Sandwich: What Really Happened

"I knew she didn't choke on a ham sandwich. I didn't believe Allan, but I thought just do it because something was wrong," she added. "The ham sandwich went worldwide. Many people don't realize that it's not even true. Even though I have said — and written — it's not true, it still goes on. I never thought it would last as long as it has."

Cass' daughter even debunked the rumors during her interview with Variety, though she admitted that her mother's lifelong weight issues likely led to her heart condition.

"She died in her sleep. And that meant a lot to me, especially as a young girl," Owen said, adding that she was "traumatized" by her mother's death at the time.

What Cass Elliot songs are trending on TikTok?

Donaldson Collection/Getty
Donaldson Collection/Getty

Elliot's 1969 hit "Make Your Own Kind of Music" has been trending on TikTok since February 2023. The sound, which has been the backing to a viral meme, has been used in 46,000 videos — and counting!

Owen even commented on the comeback of her mom's hit, joyous at Cass' newfound fame to a younger generation. "It's the coolest thing I could possibly even conceptualize," she told Rolling Stone. "I'm a total TikTok junkie, and I'm loving, in particular, the context that people are using the song because it's completely accurate in the whole attitude."

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