A Rockapaedia Obituary
John Phillips died aged sixty-five on 18th March 2001 from heart failure in Palm
Springs, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A, where he spent his last years with Farnaz, his fourth wife. John was interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery which is nearby.
John Phillips first married Susan Adams in 1957. They had a son, Jeffrey, and a daughter, Mackenzie. While touring California with The Journeymen, John met teenager Michelle Gilliam, with whom he had an extramarital affair. Their affair forced the dissolution of his marriage to Susan, and he married Michelle on 31st December 1962. The couple had one child together, Chynna, vocalist of the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips. They divorced in May 1969. Next, John married actress Geneviève Waïte, who became his third wife, in January, 1972. The couple had two children, Tamerlane and Bijou. John and Geneviève divorced in 1985.
John Phillips was born in Parris Island, South Carolina. He grew up in Alexandria, Virginia. From 1942 to 1946, he attended Linton Hall Military School in Bristow, Virginia. John formed a group of teenage boys, who sang doo-wop songs. He played basketball at George Washington High School, now George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, where he graduated in 1953, and gained an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. However, he resigned during his first year. John then attended Hampden–Sydney College, a liberal arts college for men in Hampden Sydney, Virginia, but dropped out in 1959.
John Phillips longed to have success in the music industry and travelled to New York to find a record contract in the early 1960s. His first band, The Journeymen, was a folk trio, with Scott McKenzie and Dick Weissman. They were fairly successful, putting out three albums and several appearances on the 1960s TV show, Hootenanny. All three albums, as well as a compilation known as Best of the Journeymen, have since been reissued on CD. He developed his craft in Greenwich Village, during the American folk music revival, and met future Mamas & the Papas group vocalists Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot there around that time. Lyrics of the group's song "Creeque Alley" describe this period.
John Phillips was the primary songwriter and musical arranger of The Mamas & the Papas. After being signed to Dunhill, they had several Billboard Top Ten hits, including "California Dreamin'", "Monday, Monday", "I Saw Her Again", "Creeque Alley", and "12:30 ". John Phillips also wrote "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" in 1967 for former Journeymen bandmate Scott McKenzie. "San Francisco" is widely regarded as emblematic of 1960s American counterculture music. John also wrote the oft-covered "Me and My Uncle", which was a favorite in the repertoire of The Grateful Dead.
John Phillips helped promote and performed with The Mamas & the Papas in the Monterey International Pop Music Festival held in June 1967 in Monterey, California. The festival was planned in just seven weeks and was developed as a way to validate rock music as an art form in the way jazz and folk were regarded. It was the first major pop-rock music event in history. John and Michelle Phillips became Hollywood celebrities, living in the Hollywood Hills and socializing with stars such as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Roman Polanski. The Mamas & the Papas broke up in 1968 largely because Cass Elliot wanted to go solo and because of personal problems with John, his wife Michelle, and Denny Doherty, including his wife Michelle's affair with Denny. As Michelle Phillips later recounted, "Cass confronted me and said 'I don't get it. You could have any man you want. Why would you take mine?'" Michelle was fired briefly in 1966 for having affairs with Gene Clark and Doherty, she was replaced for two months by Jill Gibson, their producer Lou Adler's girlfriend. Although Michelle Phillips was forgiven and asked to return to the group, the personal problems continued until the group split.
John Phillips released his first solo album John, the Wolf King of L.A. in 1970. The album was not commercially successful, although it did include the minor hit "Mississippi", and John began to withdraw from the limelight as his use of narcotics increased.
John Phillips produced his third wife, Geneviève's, album, 'Romance Is on the Rise' and wrote music for films. Between 1969 and 1974, John and Geneviève worked on a script and composed over thirty songs for a space-themed musical called Man on the Moon, which was eventually produced by Andy Warhol but played for just two days in New York after receiving disastrous opening night reviews.
John Phillips moved to London in 1973 where Mick Jagger encouraged him to record another solo album. It was to be released on Rolling Stones Records and funded by RSR distributor Atlantic Records. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards produced and played on the album, as well as former Stone Mick Taylor and future Stone Ronnie Wood. The project was derailed by John's increasing use of cocaine and heroin, which he injected, by his own admission, "almost every fifteen minutes for two years". In 2001, the tracks of the Half Stoned or The Lost Album album were released as Pay Pack & Follow a few months after John Phillips' death.
In 1981, John Phillips was convicted of drug trafficking and spent three weeks (one week off for good behavior) at Allenwood Prison Camp, Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Upon his release, he re-formed The Mamas & the Papas with Mackenzie Phillips, Spanky McFarlane and Denny Doherty. Throughout the remainder of his life, John toured with various incarnations of this group.