Mamas and Papas’ Denny Doherty dies
TORONTO (CP) – Halifax-born Denny Doherty was remembered Friday as the “angelic voice” that carried the ’60s folk group the Mamas and the Papas through such memorable hits as “California Dreamin”‘ and “Monday, Monday.”
Doherty died early Friday at his home in suburban Mississauga after suffering an aneurysm in his abdomen, said his sister Frances Arnold. He was 66.
“Everybody used to think that John Phillips, who wrote the songs, was also the main voice of the group, but it wasn’t – it was the angelic voice of Denny Doherty,” said Larry Leblanc, Canadian editor of Billboard Magazine.
“He was often overlooked but it was really his voice that carried the group.”
The group’s hits also included “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “Dedicated to the One I Love.” Doherty co-wrote the songs “I Saw Her Again Last Night” and “Got a Feelin.’ ”
Despite being together for just three tumultuous years marked by drug use and destructive love triangles, the Mamas and the Papas had 10 hit singles over five albums. The band broke up in 1968 amid internal squabbling.
Doherty, along with (Mama) Cass Elliot and John and Michelle Phillips, sold an estimated 20 million records.
In 1974 the 30-year-old Elliot suffered a fatal heart attack. John Phillips, the group’s chief songwriter, died in 2001 at age 65.
“What made the group special was their haunting and sumptuous harmony singing,” according to “The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll.”
Kim Cook of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences compared Doherty to other top performers of the time.
“He was one of a group of Canadians of that era that would have included Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others who were heading to the U.S. to make music and in some cases, fame and fortune,” Cook said.
“He’s an artist that, in terms of career accomplishments perhaps didn’t rank with some of those artists but still had a fine career and really was a key component in some absolutely vital and compelling music.”
Doherty started his music career in Montreal in 1960 as the co-founder of the Colonials, which later became the Halifax Three.
He launched an acting career in the ’70s and appeared on Broadway in the 1974 play “Man on the Moon.” Later in Halifax, he joined John Neville at the Neptune Theatre where he was in “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Cabaret.”
The Mama and Papas had a short-lived comeback in 1982, adding two new faces to the classic group. John’s daughter MacKenzie Phillips and Elaine (Spanky) McFarlane.
Doherty was involved in a number of musical projects, including an autobiographical musical, “Dream a Little Dream,” which premiered in Toronto in 2001.
He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996.
Doherty also dabbled in television, playing the role of the affable harbourmaster in the children’s TV series “Theodore Tugboat.”
The show, originally produced in Halifax by CBC, featured a cast of small, radio-controlled tugboats. Doherty provided the narration and the voices for all the characters.
Though the backdrop for the show was known as the Big Harbour, the model set – complete with a huge water tank – was actually a fairly accurate rendering of Halifax harbour.
The show attracted a huge following among its young fans in the mid-1990s when it appeared on CBC and later on PBS, the non-profit public broadcaster in the United States.
Every show featured Doherty’s musical, mellifluous voice telling the stories of Theodore the tugboat and his friends, many of whom were named after places in Atlantic Canada.
Doherty suffered kidney problems following surgery Dec. 14 and was put on dialysis, Arnold said. He was released from hospital last week, and Arnold said he sounded tired when she spoke with him just days ago.
“It’s got an unreal quality to it, I just can’t get it through my head,” Arnold, 78, said by phone from Halifax. “We weren’t expecting it.”
She said Doherty was depressed about his decline in health, and had been making plans for an adventurous boat trip across the Atlantic.
“He was a very energetic, busy active person and it was hard for him to make that adjustment, I think,” she said.
Arnold says the first time her mother heard Doherty on the radio it was him singing “California Dreamin’.”
“My mother stood in the kitchen and cried,” she says.
Doherty, who was married twice, is survived by his siblings Frances, Joe, Denise and Joan and children John, Emberly and Jessica. Both of his wives predeceased him.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be made, Arnold said.
Mamas and Papas’ Denny Doherty dies