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Rock Hall Anniversary: Death of Mama Cass Elliot

A passing in the summer of 1974 in the world of music, would also bring one of the biggest urban legends in rock history.

It was on July 29th, 1974 that Cass Elliot aka Mama Cass died in her sleep at the age of 32, following triumphant performances at the London Palladium. According to an autopsy, the singer had suffered a heart attack, but not long after news of her death was announced, there was speculation that she choked on a ham sandwich. This was due to police reports that a partially eaten sandwich was found in her room. Despite the autopsy proving otherwise, the urban myth of Elliot choking to death on a ham sandwich persisted for decades following her untimely passing, and even still talked about to this day with or without belief. Ironically, the London flat Elliot died in, would be the same where Who drummer Keith Moon would meet his demise.

At the time of her death, Elliot already had a lengthy career in music. She was a member of the folk group the Big 3, but not long after that she joined the Mamas and the Papas. The group yielded a string of hits including “California Dreamin’”, and the chart-topper “Monday Monday”. Their debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears was the band’s first and only number one album. After the group’s breakup, Elliot embarked on a solo career, which began with the hit single “Dream a Little Dream of Me”. She recorded a few solo albums, and appeared in several TV shows including the Mike Douglas Show, The Midnight Special, and her own variety television specials including 1973’s Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore.

Following her death, Elliot continued to be revered in popular culture. Her solo music have been featured in films including 1996’s Beautiful Thing and shows Dexter and Lost. She have been cited as an influence to artists including Boy George, k.d. lang and Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis. In 1998, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Mamas and the Papas.

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