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Obituaries

Denny Doherty, 66: singer and songwriter made his name in the Mamas and the Papas

January 20, 2007|Richard Cromelin | Times Staff Writer

Singer and songwriter Denny Doherty, a member of the hit 1960s vocal group the Mamas and the Papas, died Friday. He was 66.

His sister Frances Arnold told the Associated Press that Doherty died at his home near Toronto after a short illness. He had suffered kidney problems following surgery last month and had been put on dialysis, she said.

The Los Angeles-based quartet -- Doherty; John Phillips; his then-wife, Michelle Phillips; and Cass Elliot -- had six Top 10 hits in a two-year career that strongly influenced the "California sound" of the '60s and '70s, starting with "California Dreamin' " in 1966 and including "Monday, Monday" and "Dedicated to the One I Love."

They appeared at the landmark 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, then broke up amid personal tensions and exhaustion. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Elliot died in 1974 and John Phillips in 2001.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 24, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Denny Doherty: A Saturday obituary of singer Denny Doherty that appeared in the California section said he wrote the song "I Saw Her Again," a hit by his group the Mamas and the Papas. The song was written by Doherty and fellow group member John Phillips.

"Denny was like a throwback to another era," the group's record producer and manager, Lou Adler, said Friday. "He was a real dashing, handsome guy with a great romantic voice. I imagine if you heard Denny alone, you would not think rock 'n' roll, but with John Phillips' arrangements and with the musicians that we were using, it just fit perfectly against those four-part harmonies."

Doherty was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was a member of the folk group the Halifax Three. He met the Phillipses in New York's Greenwich Village and formed the New Journeymen with them. Elliot eventually joined and they ended up in Los Angeles, where Adler signed them to his Dunhill label.

Doherty wrote the group's hit "I Saw Her Again," but he might be best known for his affair with Michelle Phillips, which hastened the band's disintegration.

"Well, they lived the life," Adler said Friday. "It was the time, and it was an incestuous group. Maybe that's why the harmonies were so good."

Doherty recorded two solo albums after the group disbanded and later participated in a short-lived reunion. In the mid-'90s he had success in the role of the Harbormaster on the PBS children's show "Theodore Tugboat." He and Michelle Phillips sang together at the Roxy in West Hollywood during a tribute to John Phillips shortly after Phillips' death.

Doherty's main creative outlet in recent years was a play he co-wrote and appeared in on stage in New York and other cities, "Dream a Little Dream: The Mamas and the Papas Musical," which related the group's saga.

"He was enjoying that, and he was good at it," Adler said. "He was a good old Irish storyteller."

According to the Associated Press, Doherty is survived by three children, John, Emberly and Jessica; three sisters; and a brother. He was married twice, and both of his wives predeceased him.

*

richard.cromelin@latimes.com

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