#16: New World Coming by Mama Cass Elliot

City: Fredericton, NB
Radio Station: CFNB
Peak Month: March 1970
Peak Position in Fredericton: #5
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #42
YouTube: “New World Coming
Lyrics: “New World Coming

Ellen Naomi Cohen was born in 1941 and raised in Washington, D.C. She adopted the name “Cass” in high school after the actress Peggy Cass. When Ellen Cohen was 16 she saw Peggy Cass in the film Auntie Mame. Peggy Cass who was nominated for an Academy Award in 1959 in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in Auntie Mame. “Cass” Cohen later she took the surname “Elliot,” in memory of a friend who had died. She moved to Manhattan, pursuing an acting career where she toured in a musical production of The Music Man in 1962. She was part of a folk trio called the Big 3 from 1962 to 1964. From there she joined the Mugwumps, and met Denny Doherty. In 1965 she became part of The Mama’s & the Papas.

The Mamas & the Papas first single, “Go Where You Wanna Go” was a commercial failure, although successfully covered by the Fifth Dimension in 1967. But their second single release, “California Dreamin’” became a classic pop hit, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in Vancouver (BC). “California Dreamin'” was the number-one song for the year 1966 according to Billboard. Their next single, “Monday, Monday”, peaked at #1 in Vancouver (BC) for four consecutive weeks, and for three weeks on the Hot 100. In early 1967 “Monday, Monday” earned The Mamas & the Papas a Grammy award as Best Contemporary Group Performance of 1966. They were also nominated It was also nominated for Best Performance by a Vocal Group, Best Contemporary Song and Record of the Year. The second album was their self-titled The Mamas & the Papas.

With The Mama’s & the Papas, Mama Cass sang on hit records “Dedicated To The One I Love”, “I Saw Her Again”, “Words Of Love”, “Twelve Thirty”, “Creeque Alley”, “Dancing In The Street”, and “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”. After the release of their fourth studio album, The Papas & The Mamas, Mama Cass left the group. In October 1968, Cass Elliot released a debut solo album Dream a Little Dream. The tracks included Mama Cass’ lead vocal on The Mama’s & the Papas last hit single “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”. A second track, “California Earthquake”, was a minor hit that winter, which had its best chart run in Canada in Winnipeg (MB).

In 1969, Mama Cass had her biggest solo hit single titled “It’s Getting Better”. The single climbed to #3 in Ireland, #8 in the UK, and #30 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though it stalled at #30, the single spent so many weeks in the Hot 100 that it ended up being the #55 Billboard hit for the year 1969. “It’s Getting Better” offered an optimistic depiction of a relationship that was “getting better everyday.” Cass Elliot said of the song that it was good for what it was, but was not exactly a “social commentary” song, which was what she was aiming for. The single was a release from her album Bubblegum, Lemonade &… Something for Mama. “It’s Getting Better” also peaked at #1 in Fredericton (NB) and #8 in Toronto.

Another single release in 1969, “Make Your Own Kind Of Music”, invited listeners to march to their own drummer. It was the title track from Mama Cass’ third solo album. The song applauded people being individuals and to keep on following your own thread “even if nobody else sings along.” Despite heavy airplay, the song stalled at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the USA, it had its best chart run in Los Angeles where it peaked at #6. While in Canada, the radio market that “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” fared best was Winnipeg (MB) where it climbed to #12.

In 1970, “Mama” Cass Elliot released a single titled “New World Coming”.

New World Coming by Mama Cass Elliot

“New World Coming” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Barry Imberman was born in Manhattan in 1939. Raised in a Jewish family, he began his professional career as a songwriter in 1958 at Aldon Music in the Brill Building. His first songs, all credited to Barry Mann, included recordings by Sal Mineo, the Kalin Twins, the Pony-Tails, “Don’t Destroy Me” by Crash Craddock, and “She Say (Oom Dooby Doom)” by the Diamonds – a Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. That year Mann also wrote the B-side to the Top 20 hit “Here Comes Summer” by Jerry Keller, and “Footsteps” and “Come Back Silly Girl” for Steve Lawrence. In 1961, Barry Mann also recorded a Top Ten hit he wrote in 1961 titled “Who Put The Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)”.

Mann met Cynthia Weil in the Brill Building on Broadway. Their professional relationship became personal and they married. Mann and Weil cowrote many songs including “Don’t Know Much” for Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt, “Hungry” and “Kicks” for Paul Revere And The Raiders, “Somewhere Out There” for Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, “(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers, “On Broadway” for The Drifters, “Walking In The Rain” for the Ronettes and Jay and The Americans, “I’m Gonna Be Strong” for Gene Pitney, “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” for Eydie Gorme, “Here You Come Again” for Dolly Parton, “Make Your Own Kinds Of Music” and “It’s Getting Better” for Mama Cass, and “Rock ‘N Roll Lullaby” for B.J. Thomas. In addition, Barry Mann wrote (or co-wrote) “I Love How You Love Me” for the Paris Sisters, “Patches” for Dickey Lee, and “Sometimes When We Touch” with Dan Hill.

Cynthia Weil was born in 1940 in Manhattan and raised in a conservative Jewish family. In her teens she studied acting and dance but went on to develop her skills as a songwriter. Early in 1960 she landed a position with the Frank Music Company headed by Frank Loesser, writer of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and the musicals Guys And Dolls, Hans Christian Andersen and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Weil moved on to Aldon Music in the Brill Building late in 1960. She died in 2023 at the age of 82.

“New World Coming” is a song that promises that the old world we are living in is soon coming to an end. There’s a new world coming, “and it’s just around the bend.” The lyrics invited listeners to attune themselves to signs of the new world’s ushering:

There’s a new voice calling, you can hear it if you try.
And it’s growing stronger, with each day that passes by.

There’s a brand new morning, rising clear and sweet and free.
There’s a new day dawning that belongs to you and me.

The new world was bringing peace, joy and love.

“New World Coming” climbed to #4 in Nashville, #5 in Fredericton, #9 in Columbus, GA, Lincoln, NE, and Santa Rosa, CA, #10 in Louisville, KY, #11 in St. Louis, and Columbus, OH, and #12 in Cincinnati, OH. In Canada, after Fredericton the next most successful chart run for “New World Coming” was in Lethbridge (AB) where the song reached #16. On the Billboard Hot 100 “New World Coming” stalled at #42.

On March 22, 1970, Dunhill Records president Jay Lasker told the Los Angeles Times that regarding “New World Coming”: “[It’s] gotten great airplay because it came along and expressed hope in the midst of despair. Unfortunately, it isn’t selling all that well, so we’re going back to an old theme. The message here – at least to us – is that ‘the message record has had it’.”

“New World Coming” was the debut single from the compilation album Mama’s Big Ones. A followup, “The Good Times Are Coming”, only made the playlist on CKVN in Vancouver, but not the Top 30. While “A Song That Never Comes” peaked at #14 in Montreal, but was passed over by DJs in other Canadian radio markets. In 1971 Mama Cass and Dave Mason released an album of duets on Dave Mason & Cass Elliot. However, the single “Too Much Truth, Too Much Love” was not commercially successful.

In 1972, Cass Elliot released the album Cass Elliot, and released a cover of the 1965 Barbara Lewis hit, “Baby I’m Yours”, as a single. It made the Top 20 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. In the fall of 1972, Cass Elliot released her fifth solo studio album The Road Is No Place for a Lady.In 1973 Cass Elliot released a live album from two concerts at Mister Kelly’s nightclub in Chicago, titled Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore.

When she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on April 22, 1974, Cass Elliot expressed interest in running for political office – “maybe the Senate,” she said.

On the evening of July 28, 1974, Cass Elliot attended a cocktail party. She retired that night to an apartment in Mayfair, London, at Curzon Place at which singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson allowed her to stay.  In the early hours of July 29, 1974, he died in her sleep at age 32. According to Keith Simpson, who conducted her autopsy, she died of a heart attack, and there were no drugs in her system. Elliot died in Flat 12, 9 Curzon Place, Mayfair, London, owned by Harry Nilsson. There were reports she died from chocking on a ham sandwich. The story wasn’t true, but became an urban legend. Four years later, the Who’s drummer Keith Moon died at the age of 32 in the same Curzon Place bedroom.

A Belgravian physician named Dr. Anthony Greenburgh entered the flat that morning while the press was outside. Greenburgh told the Daily Express “she appeared to have been eating a ham sandwich and drinking Coca-Cola while lying down — a very dangerous thing to do. She seemed to have choked on a ham sandwich.” Dr. Greenburgh’s opinion failed to account for the fact that Cass had not bitten into the sandwich, as Inspector Kenneth Humm noted in his police report. But the press ran with the story that Mama Cass died due to her own gluttony.

An autopsy by Dr. Keith Simpson concluded that Cass’ heart muscle “turned too fat.” Biographer Jon Johnson writes that the conclusion reached by Simpson was termed “improper” by Vanderbilt University heart specialist Dr. George V. Mann who stated “It is true that obesity is related to high blood pressure and stroke, but there’s no correlation with a heart attack. He’s (Dr. Simpson) stating an old-fashioned dogma, a Victorian concept of fatty degeneration that has gone out in modern times. Old time pathologists tend to look at deposits of adipose tissue around the surface of the heart and associate it with a heart attack. But a heart attack is due to limitation of blood supply to the heart muscle with the result that some of the muscle dies.”

Author Eddi Fiegel, in his book Dream a Little Dream of Me: The Life of Cass Elliot, writes about some peculiar connections Cass Elliot had to a criminal element. At the time of her death Cass Elliot was dating a man named Pic Dawson, whose father was an American State Dept. foreign attaché. Dawson was under investigation by Scotland Yard for international drug smuggling. Though he was Cass Elliot’s boyfriend at the time of her death, he didn’t attend the funeral. According to Fiegel, Pic Dawson was dealing drugs to numbers of the people who were at Roman Polanski’s home, 10050 Cielo Drive, on August 8, 1969. He was one of three suspects arrested by the LAPD in connection with the five “Tate” murders committed at Polanski’s home in Benedict Canyon. Dawson was subsequently cleared of charges and released. Cass Elliot personally knew two of the people Dawson was selling drugs to, Wojciech Frykowski and Jay Sebring, who were murdered at the Cielo Drive home. She was also a friend of the murder victim Sharon Tate, a cameo detail in the 2019 film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. While multiple murder mastermind, Charles Manson, met Abigail Folger, at Cass’ home. The wealthy coffee heiress was later found dead among the carnage on Cielo Drive. Did Cass Elliot know something about the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson “Family” that resulted in her being a victim of foul play?

Alex Constantine, author of The Covert War Against Rock, posits some darker explanations for the death of Cass Elliot. Dr. Simpson claimed that there were “no drugs” detected in Elliot’s bloodstream at the time of death. Though former husband Donald von Wiederman observed that Cass “was always high. She took drugs on a daily basis.” Constantine speculates that if Dr. Simpson “admitted to traces of drugs in her system, he would have had to list and quantify them. Elliot’s blood samples would be subject to peer review. He was forced to deny that there was any trace of drugs in her system. If he included them in his report, there was a risk that the toxin used to kill her would be detected on subsequent analysis.”

Alex Constantine cites the Senate Church Committee (United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities) hearings in 1975 for context. The Church Committee, headed by Senator Frank Church from Idaho, heard testimony from CIA Director William Colby in discussion about a modified 1911 Colt gun. During the hearing Senator Frank Church asked CIA director William Colby, “Does this pistol fire the dart?” Colby replied, “Yes, it does, Mr. Chairman, and a special one was developed which, potentially would be able to enter the target without perception.” Colby also explained the toxin would not appear in an autopsy—so there would be “no way of perceiving that the target was hit.”

Author Alex Constantine speculates that the gun the CIA developed, and was using by by the time 32-year-old Cass Elliot died, needs to be considered as plausible an explanation for her death. Constantine notes that the Church Committee hearings established that there were intelligence activities against “restless youth” and celebrities connected with the anti-war movement.

The 1976 Church Committee report included a leaked Intelligence memorandum advising agents with respect to musicians connected to the anti-war movement. “Show them as scurrilous and depraved. Call attention to their habits and living conditions, explore every possible embarrassment. Send in women and sex, break up marriages. Have members arrested on marijuana charges. Investigate personal conflicts or animosities between them. Send articles to the newspapers showing their depravity. Use narcotics and free sex to entrap. Use misinformation to confuse and disrupt. Get records of their bank accounts. Obtain specimens of their handwriting. Provoke target groups into rivalries that may result in death.”

In his biography of Mama Cass, Jon Johnson published twelve photocopies from her FBI file, released after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. According to the Church Committee Report there were open files on over 100,000 American citizens. The pages in Cass Elliot’s file were almost entirely obscured by black ink. The FBI report mentions “She reportedly has associated with drug addicts, and individuals opposed to the President’s Vietnam policy.” One report marked “urgent” and “confidential” noted that Cass attended a fund-raiser in Hollywood hosted by the Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice Committee (EIPJ).

Cass Elliot attended a number of Democratic Party functions and in 1972 joined the Anti-War Coalition founded by Jane Fonda. In an interview on the Mike Douglas Show, two years before her death, Cass said “I think that I would like to be a senator or something in twenty years. I don’t think I really know enough yet. I’m just 30 now and I wouldn’t even be eligible to run for office for another five years. But I have a lot of feelings about things. I know the way I would like to see things for this country and in my travels, when I talk to people, everybody wants pretty much the same thing: peace, enough jobs, no poverty and good education.”

In October 2022, Mama Cass Elliot received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

January 19, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Liz McNeil, “Mama Cass of Hit ’60s Band Mamas & the Papas Did Not Die from a Ham Sandwich: What Really Happened,” People, July 29, 2020.
Barry Mann bio,” mann-weil.com.
Cynthia Weil bio,” mann-weil.com.
Mama Cass, “Make Your Own Kind Of Music“, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, 1968.
Alex Williams, “Cynthia Weil who put words to ‘Lovin’ Feeling,’ Dies at 82,” New York Times, June 2, 2023.
Alex Constantine, “The Death of Cass Elliot and Other “Restless Youth”,” in The Covert War Against Rock, (Feral House, 2000), 35-41.
Donald von Wiedenman, “The Baron and The Pop Star” Hershey Bars & Nylons.com, 1975.
Ham and Wheeze,” Snopes.com, New Zealand, January 19, 2007.
Eddi Fiegel, Dream a Little Dream of Me: The Life of Cass Elliot, (Chicago Review Press, 2005).
Former CIA employee Mary Embree discusses… Heart Attack Gun,” 1998 interview.
CASSt Your Vote! Cass Elliott & Politics,” The Official Cass Elliot Website.
Senate Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities Report, “Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans,” Book II, April 26, 1976.

New World Coming by Mama Cass Elliot

CFNB 550-AM Fredericton (NB) | Top 20 | March 21, 1970

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