California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas, is a graphic biography of the woman behind the hauntingly beautiful voice you’ll know from The Mamas & the Papas classics like California Dreamin’, Dancing in the Street and Dream a Little Dream of Me.
Each chapter is wrapped around a different character in her life, which works beautifully, starting with family members as the first few chapters explore her youth, then moving on to band mates as the book progresses. It uses another biography as it’s source material but with Cass being such a larger than life character, Pénélope Bagieu has done an amazing job of infusing this book with Cass’s spirit and personality, bringing her bounding off the page and into your life like an enthusiastic musical puppy. The pencilled artwork flows through the story, creating a mesmerising atmosphere of Jewish family life, leading through to smokey recording studios and dingy flats.
Cass’s story is ultimately a tragic one, though this book doesn’t travel as far as her untimely demise. Instead it’s a celebration of her talent, her self-belief and her determination. It embraces her love of what she’s doing and those around her, but also her excessive indulgences, with both food and drugs playing a big part in shaping the person she becomes.
The book is a surprisingly wonderful piece of work that captures the majestic charm of an intriguing, unconventional musician. Almost best of all, there’s a short listening guide at the back that directs you to some of the most beautiful singing you’ll ever hear. Listen and read, and uncover the amazing story of this fascinating woman.