A Palm Springs Jazz Wedding… For A Rock Star
“Papa” John Phillips created an entirely new sound in the 1960’s.
The hits of the “Mamas and the Papas,” many of which he wrote — and the arrangements for those songe — were based, he told me, on “something old, something new and all of it just slightly familiar so you think you may have heard it before or should have heard it before but can’t quite put your finger on it.”
That something was jazz.
The iconic songwriter, singer and Monterey Pop Festival producer who had put Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin on the world’s stage for the first time, Phillips was actaully a jazzer at heart.
John loved jazz so much that he named his daughter Bijou after a Lambert, Hendricks and Ross tune, “Mon Petit Bijou.”
One night at the Palm Springs house he shared with his fourth and forever wife, Farnaz, he decided to teach me how to sing the poignant jazz classic, “Something Cool.” It was about 4 a.m. — John never slept — and he had picked up his 12-string guitar, sat down on the floor and crossed his long legs in front of him. Strumming and phrasing slowly and simply, he sang in the eloquent voice of the weary alcoholic female telling of her sad life. He was a great storyteller!
I have sung it exactly that way ever since.
To celebrate John and Farnaz’ marriage in 1995, we invited a bunch of friends to an intimate party at Mel Haber’s Ingleside Inn.
I love Mel Haber. He once sent me a postcard that read: “What have you done for me lately?”
My plan was to entertain John with all of the great Mama’s and Papa’s hits, which we did. My daughter Jennifer had learned the harmonies to “Monday, Monday,” “California Dreaming,” “This Is Dedicated To The One I Love” and the Mama Cass re-make of Gus Kahn’s “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” and sang backup with me and the band, which was great fun.
But what John really wanted to hear was his favorite song, “My Foolish Heart.”
He always said it was the only song he would ever dance to — and that he would only dance to it when I was singing it.
And dance he and Farnaz did, that sultry almost-spring night in Palm Springs in 1995.
“Mama Cass is looking over your shoulder,” he told me.
We would only have him for six more years.
John adored the Great American Songbook, especially Cole Porter’s music. He was particulalry fond of the little-known verses, and loved that I included them in my renditions of the tunes.
He thought “My Foolish Heart” should have a verse, too, and often threatened to write one for me in the style of Cole Porter, which he never actually got around to doing.
So I wrote one myself after he died.
It’s dedicated to him, of course.
Singer/bandleader Judy Chamberlain specializes in live music for celebrity weddings in California, Arizona, Texas and beyond. She can be reached at 714 319-9242