Cover image for California dreamin' : Cass Elliot before the Mamas & the Papas / Pénélope Bagieu ; English translation by Nanette McGuinness.
Title:
California dreamin' : Cass Elliot before the Mamas & the Papas / Pénélope Bagieu ; English translation by Nanette McGuinness.
Title Variants:
California dreaming
ISBN:
9781626725461
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : First Second, [2017]
Physical Description:
266 pages, 4 unnumbered pages : chiefly illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
"Cass Elliot before the Mamas & the Papas"--Subtitle from cover.

California dreamin'
Abstract:
"Before she was the legendary Mama Cass of the folk group The Mamas and the Papas, Ellen Cohen was a teen girl from Baltimore with an incredible voice, incredible confidence, and incredible dreams. She dreamed of being not just a singer but a star. Not just a star--a superstar. So, at the age of nineteen, at the dawn of the sixties, Ellen left her hometown and became Cass Elliot. At her size, Cass was never going to be the kind of girl that record producers wanted on album covers. But she found an unlikely group of co-conspirators, and in their short time together this bizarre and dysfunctional band recorded some of the most memorable songs of their era. Through the whirlwind of drugs, war, love, and music, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams, of who she loved, and--most importantly--who she was."--Amazon.
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Summary

Summary

California Dreamin' from Pénélope Bagieu depicts Mama Cass as you've never known her, in this poignant graphic novel about the remarkable vocalist who rocketed The Mamas & the Papas to stardom.

Before she was the legendary Mama Cass of the folk group The Mamas and the Papas, Ellen Cohen was a teen girl from Baltimore with an incredible voice, incredible confidence, and incredible dreams. She dreamed of being not just a singer but a star. Not just a star--a superstar. So, at the age of nineteen, at the dawn of the sixties, Ellen left her hometown and became Cass Elliot.

At her size, Cass was never going to be the kind of girl that record producers wanted on album covers. But she found an unlikely group of co-conspirators, and in their short time together this bizarre and dysfunctional band recorded some of the most memorable songs of their era. Through the whirlwind of drugs, war, love, and music, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams, of who she loved, and--most importantly--who she was.


Author Notes

Pénélope Bagieu was born in Paris in 1982, to Corsican and Basque parents. She is a bestselling graphic novel author and her editorial illustrations have appeared all over the French media. She blogs, drums in a rock band, and watches lots of nature shows. Exquisite Corpse was her first graphic novel to be published in the United States.


Reviews 2

New York Review of Books Review

I moved to America in 1991, after a childhood in the culturally isolated U.S.S.R. This is my excuse for having Grand Canyon- size holes in my knowledge of pre-1991 American pop culture. Until last week, I possessed minimal awareness of the group called the Mamas and the Papas, beyond the fact that I'd heard the name, and that my daughter may have played "California Dreamin'" when she took a few guitar lessons in elementary school. (Or maybe it was "Hotel California" she played, by that other group?) I didn't even know how many Mamas and Papas there had been (there were two of each) when, with some trepidation, I picked up Pénélope Bagieu's biography of Cass Elliot, a.k.a. Mama Cass. The story begins in Baltimore, in 1941. A Jewish family is listening to Roosevelt's address on the radio, and the only person in the room who is "not panicking at all" is the baby in a young mother's arms. This baby is Ellen Cohen, who would grow up to become Cass Elliot - a talented and passionately determined singer with a wicked sense of style and humor, a woman who keeps her spirit despite repeated rejection she faces for a single, cruel reason: She is fat, and she doesn't care to try o lose weight. Bagieu narrates Elliot's early life chronologically, from alternating points of view: of Ellen's little sister, her singing teacher, her best friend, her bandmates. A brilliantly affecting chapter is told by Ellen's adorable, if somewhat Jewishly stereotyped father, Phillip. Phillip is 42 years old and very recently dead. From beyond the grave, he watches Ellen attend his funeral, come home, undress, put his overcoat over her naked body, smoke a joint and curl up in her childhood bed. It's the tenderest depiction of grief. Phillip is Ellen's biggest ally, a person who taught her to love music. "That's how she is, my Ellen," he says. "She's untamed." Here, "untamed" is unambiguously a compliment . The only person who loves Elliot more than her own father is Pénélope Bagieu. Her drawings are suffused with delight, like when she shows Ellen's first singing lesson with her teacher, Shirley. "She had this kind of bulky body that she didn't know what to do with," Shirley says. "And then. All of a sudden. There wasn't a body anymore. There was only that presence. And that voice. That voice!" The sequence concludes with a full-page drawing of the stunned Shirley staring at the huge teenager in front of her, who'd just finished a song, and now stands splay-legged, grinning and half-bowing. Bagieu's medium is graphite, and she uses its entire range of possibilities: from looping lines to richly built-up shadows that allow for lyrical depictions of snow, moonlight, cigarette smoke. Exuberance and sadness coexist in her drawing style, as they coexist in the character of Cass Elliot - whose every moment of joy and perseverance seems to overlay deep loneliness and vulnerability. Bagieu is a deftand generous storyteller. She is funny, but she also brings an emotionally unflinching French sensibility to writing about relationships. The book ends in the mid-1960s, as the Mamas and the Papas achieve fame, and a 24- year-old Cass is finally accepted as a true member of the group. Yet the highly dramatic final chapter also makes it clear that it's also the beginning of their end. I have no idea how close Bagieu's reimagining is to the real events of Elliot's life, or if the Mamas and the Papas nerds would argue with her interpretation. All I know is that it made me fall in love with Bagieu's Elliot, an irrepressible woman who persisted in a hostile world.


Library Journal Review

Ellen Naomi Cohen (1941-74), the self-dubbed Cass Elliot, spread her beautiful contralto and extravagant personality across the pop music scene of the 1960s and 1970s as part of The Mamas and the Papas and, later, as a solo act. Here, Bagieu (Exquisite Corpse) packs in all the relationship drama, body shaming, and bouts of intoxication (in multiple senses) that fed into Elliot realizing her dream to be a superstar. Large in body and personality as well as in vocal charm, Elliot gained fan adulation more readily than friendship or love. Today, her persistence and self-confidence encourages women-and men-to mobilize their talent despite setbacks. Narrating from the viewpoints of those close to Elliot, Bagieu drew the entire story in free-spirited black pencil that metaphorically references the spontaneity of those decades. The sassy, fluid art creates a slightly fictionalized yet paradigm-shifting portrait of the star as she might have wanted to be remembered. VERDICT Elliot's story will charm boomers who remember the original songs as well as younger ages who can easily identify with Elliot, her starry eyes, and her struggles.-MC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.