Michelle Phillips

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Michelle Phillips
Michelle Phillips.jpg
Michelle Phillips, 2002
Background information
Birth name Holly Michelle Gilliam
Born (1944-06-04) June 4, 1944 (age 71)
Long Beach, California, U.S.
Genres Folk, pop
Occupation(s) Vocalist, songwriter, actress
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1965–present
Associated acts The Mamas & the Papas

Michelle Phillips (born June 4, 1944) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. She gained fame as a member of the 1960s vocal group The Mamas & the Papas.


Early life[edit]

Phillips was born Holly Michelle Gilliam in Long Beach, California, the daughter of Joyce Leon (née Poole), an accountant, and Gardner Burnett Gilliam, a merchant mariner.[1] She grew up partly in Mexico City, where her father was attending college on the GI Bill.

She met John Phillips while he was touring California with his band the Journeymen. He divorced his wife and married Michelle on December 31, 1962, when she was 18. In 1968, she gave birth to their daughter, Chynna Phillips, who later became vocalist of the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips.[2] The couple divorced in 1970.

Musical career[edit]

The Mamas & the Papas on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968. Michelle Phillips is at far left.

Phillips was a founding member of The Mamas & the Papas, helping to form the vocal group in 1965 until its breakup in 1968.[3] She co-wrote some of the band's hits, including "California Dreamin'" and "Creeque Alley". In 1970, Phillips sang backup vocals on a Leonard Cohen tour, and also married actor Dennis Hopper, a marriage that lasted eight days.

In 1973, Phillips recorded vocals as a cheerleader along with Darlene Love, for the Cheech & Chong single "Basketball Jones" which peaked at No.15 on the Billboard singles chart. In 1975 Phillips signed a solo recording contract with A&M Records and released a promo single, "Aloha Louie", a song she wrote with ex-husband John Phillips. Phillips released her first solo single in 1976, "No Love Today", on the Mother, Jugs & Speed movie soundtrack. In 1977, Phillips released her debut solo album, Victim of Romance, produced by Jack Nitzsche for A&M Records and her first two solo singles from the album failed to make the U.S. music charts. That year she sang backup vocals with former stepdaughter actress Mackenzie Phillips on "Zulu Warrior", for her ex-husband's second solo album, Pay Pack & Follow, which was released in 2001. "Zulu Warrior" is in the September 2008 release, Pussycat, which has the 1977 mix of the song.

In 1979, she recorded the song "Forever" for the movie soundtrack of California Dreaming, a surf film that had nothing to do with her former group. In late 1987, Phillips sang backup vocals on Belinda Carlisle's number one hit, "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", as well as on the Carlisle LP, Heaven on Earth.

On January 12, 1998, The Mamas & the Papas were inducted in New York City to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For the first time in over 20 years, Michelle performed "California Dreamin" live with Denny Doherty and John Phillips. In 2002, the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and she performed live with Denny Doherty (John Phillips died in March 2001).[citation needed]

On March 29, 2001, Phillips was among the performers at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, California, for a John Phillips memorial tribute. Michelle performed live with Scott McKenzie and Denny Doherty on two numbers. Non-performers who also attended included Lou Adler, The Mamas & the Papas original record producer, among the three hundred other invited guests.[citation needed]

Acting career[edit]

Phillips began acting in the 1970s and continues to act in movies and in television. She was introduced in 1973's Dillinger as John Dillinger's girlfriend, Billie Frechette. In 1974 she was featured in The California Kid with Martin Sheen, and also appeared briefly in a party scene with Warren Beatty in Shampoo. In 1977, she played Rudolph Valentino's second wife Natacha Rambova in Ken Russell's film Valentino, and also starred in the 1979 film version of the Sidney Sheldon novel Bloodline with Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara. Phillips also played the mermaid princess Nyah in three episodes of Fantasy Island. Phillips appeared as Leora Van Treas in Mike Hammer: Murder Takes All starring Stacy Keach in the title role.

She has made guest appearances on programs such as Spin City and Star Trek: The Next Generation (where she appeared in the episode "We'll Always Have Paris" as a former love-interest of Jean-Luc Picard). She had a guest role on the television series The Magnificent Seven, where she played Maude Standish, the mother of one of the Seven. Phillips' most recent serious acting job has been a recurring role on the WB drama 7th Heaven as Lily Jackson, sister of family matriarch Annie Jackson Camden (Catherine Hicks). She played Laura Collins in the 1996 television movie No One Would Tell.

She also appeared in the 1989 comedy film "Let It Ride" as Mrs. Davis, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Teri Garr amongst others.

Phillips starred for several seasons on Knots Landing as the constantly scheming Anne Matheson Sumner, the mother of star Nicollette Sheridan's character Paige Matheson (a role which Phillips returned to for the 1997 TV movie Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac). In the mid-1990s she played Abby Malone, mother of Valerie (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) on Fox's Beverly Hills, 90210.

She appeared at the TV Land awards in April 2009 for the 30th year celebration of Knots Landing.

Personal life[edit]

Phillips has married five times and has three children:

Recording of The Mamas and the Papas' second album [eponymously titled The Mamas and the Papas 1966) and sometimes referred to as Cass, John, Michelle, Dennie, whose names appear thus above the band's name on the cover] was interrupted when Phillips became indiscreet about her affair with Gene Clark of The Byrds.[4][5] A liaison the previous year between Phillips and band mate Denny Doherty had been forgiven; Doherty and John Phillips had reconciled and written "I Saw Her Again" (1966) about the episode,[6][7] although they later disagreed about how much Doherty contributed to the song.[8] This time, Phillips was determined to fire his wife.[9] After consulting their attorney and record label, he, Elliot, and Doherty served Michelle Phillips with a letter expelling her from the group on June 28, 1966.[10] Michelle was rehired shortly thereafter, when the three original members concluded her replacement Jill Gibson, who was a quick study and well regarded, lacked her predecessor's "stage charisma and grittier edge"; Michelle Phillips was reinstated on August 23, 1966.[11][12]


In 1986, Phillips wrote an autobiography, California Dreamin': The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas, released just weeks after her former husband's autobiography Papa John.[13] In it, Michelle describes such events as her first meeting with fellow Mama, Cass Elliot, winning 17 straight shoots at a crap table in the Bahamas when the band was broke and could not afford the airfare back to the United States, and how her writing credit on "California Dreamin'", which still nets her royalties, was "the best wake-up call" she ever had (she was asleep in a New York hotel room when her then husband John Phillips woke her up in order to help him finish a new song he was writing).[14]


Album[15] Year
Victim of Romance 1977
Single[16] Year
Aloha Louie 1975
No Love Today 1976
Aching Kind 1977
There She Goes (Remake) 1978


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Michelle Phillips Film Reference Biography". filmreference.com. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  2. ^ Wenning, Elizabeth. Wilson Phillips. In Contemporary Musicians Vol. 5 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1991), p. 212.
  3. ^ Decker, Ed. Mamas and the Papas. In Contemporary Musicians Vol. 21 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998), p. 147.
  4. ^ Michelle Phillips, California Dreamin' , pp. 84-87.
  5. ^ John Phillips, Papa John, pp. 140-141; 147-148.
  6. ^ Michelle Phillips, California Dreamin' , pp. 80-81.
  7. ^ John Phillips, Papa John, p. 136.
  8. ^ Doherty said, "I wrote the tune. John wrote the lyric." See Dream a Little Dream (the Nearly True Story of the Mamas and the Papas), Denny Doherty Website. Retrieved 2 May 2013. Phillips said he wrote everything, but gave Doherty a co-composer credit because he had inspired the song. See John Phillips, Papa John, p. 132.
  9. ^ John Phillips, Papa John, pp. 147-148.
  10. ^ Michelle Phillips, California Dreamin' , p. 87; there is an image of the letter between p. 84 and p. 85.
  11. ^ John Phillips, Papa John, p. 203.
  12. ^ "Jill Gibson's Vocals on the 2nd Mamas and Papas LP", Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  13. ^ Phillips, John (1986). Papa John. 
  14. ^ Phillips, Michelle (1986). California Dreamin': The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas. 
  15. ^ "Albums by Michelle Phillips: Discography, songs, biography, and listening guide - Rate Your Music". rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  16. ^ "Albums by Michelle Phillips: Discography, songs, biography, and listening guide - Rate Your Music". rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 

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