John Phillips Biography: Songs, Wife, Age, Children, Net Worth, Death, Parents, Movie, Nationality

February 28, 2024 0 Posted By Johnson Ajiboye

John Phillips was a legendary musician who shaped the sound and culture of the 1960s with his folk-rock group The Mamas & the Papas.

He was also a prolific songwriter, producer, and organizer of the historic Monterey Pop Festival, which featured some of the era’s most iconic artists.

His life was full of highs and lows, marked by musical success, personal turmoil, drug addiction, and legal troubles. He left behind a legacy of timeless songs and a complicated family history.


  • Full name: John Edmund Andrew Phillips
  • Nickname: Papa John
  • Date of birth: August 30, 1935
  • Age: 65 years old (at the time of his death)
  • Gender: Male
  • Place of birth: Parris Island, South Carolina, USA
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Musician, songwriter, producer
  • Height: 6 ft 5 in (196 cm)
  • Parents: Edna Gertrude (née Gaines) and Claude Andrew Phillips
  • Siblings: Rosie, Barbara, Bill, and Ann
  • Spouses: Susan Adams (1957-1962), Michelle Gilliam (1962-1970), Geneviève Waïte (1972-1985), Farnaz Arasteh (1995-2001)
  • Children: Tamerlane, Mackenzie, Jeffrey, Chynna, and Bijou
  • Relationship status: Married (at the time of his death)
  • Net worth: $10 million

Early Life & Education

John Phillips was born on August 30, 1935, in Parris Island, South Carolina, where his father was a retired US Marine Corps officer who ran a tavern. His father was also a heavy drinker who suffered from poor health and died when John was 15.

His mother was a schoolteacher who encouraged John’s musical talent. John learned to play the guitar, piano, and harmonica early and formed his first band, The Smoothies, in high school. He also sang in the church choir and the glee club.

John attended the US Naval Academy for a year but dropped out after failing several courses. He then enrolled at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he met his first wife, Susan Adams, a wealthy debutante. They eloped in 1957 and moved to New York City, where John pursued a music career.

He joined a folk group called The Journeymen, which had some moderate success in the early 1960s. He also became involved in the Greenwich Village folk scene, where he met other influential musicians such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Personal Life

John Phillips had a turbulent personal life involving multiple marriages, affairs, drug addiction, and legal troubles. He married four times and had five children, all of whom became musicians in their own right.

His first marriage to Susan Adams lasted for five years, during which they had a son, Tamerlane. They divorced in 1962 after John fell in love with Michelle Gilliam, a young singer who joined The Journeymen.

John and Michelle married later that year and formed The Mamas & the Papas with Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot.

They had a daughter, Chynna, in 1968. However, their marriage was strained by John’s infidelity, drug use, and controlling behavior. They separated in 1969 and divorced in 1970.

John’s second marriage to Geneviève Waïte, a South African actress, singer, and former model, was also marred by drugs and violence. They married in 1972 and had two children, Bijou and Tamerlane.

John produced Geneviève’s only album, Romance Is on the Rise, in 1974, but it was a commercial failure.

They divorced in 1985 after John was arrested for drug trafficking and spent a month in jail.

John’s third marriage to Farnaz Arasteh, a waitress and artist, was his shortest and most stable. They married in 1995, shortly before John underwent a liver transplant due to his years of substance abuse. They remained together until John died in 2001.

John also had two other children from extramarital affairs. He had a daughter, Mackenzie, with his former girlfriend, Suzy Phillips-January, in 1979. Mackenzie later became an actress and revealed that she had an incestuous relationship with John for several years, starting when she was 19.

John denied the allegations, but Mackenzie maintained that they were true. John also had a son, Jeffrey, with his former girlfriend, Geneviève Gorder, in 1981. Jeffrey became a musician and joined his half-sister Chynna in the pop group Wilson Phillips.


John Phillips had a remarkable career as a musician, songwriter, producer, and organizer. He was the leader and main songwriter of The Mamas & the Papas, one of the most popular and influential groups of the 1960s.

They had several hit songs, such as “California Dreamin’,” “Monday, Monday,” “I Saw Her Again,” “Creeque Alley,” and “Dedicated to the One I Love.”

They also pioneered vocal harmonies and complex arrangements in folk rock music. They broke up in 1968 after internal conflicts and personal problems. John also wrote the hit song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” for Scott McKenzie, which became an anthem for the hippie movement and the Summer of Love in 1967.

He also organized the Monterey Pop Festival, the first major rock festival in history, featuring some of the era’s most iconic artists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Otis Redding, and The Grateful Dead.

He also produced the documentary film Monterey Pop, which captured the event and its impact on the culture.

John’s solo career was less successful than his group work. He released his first solo album, John Phillips (John, the Wolf King of L.A.), in 1970, which received mixed reviews and poor sales. He also recorded a soundtrack album for the film Brewster McCloud, which was never released.

He attempted to reunite The Mamas & the Papas several times, but the results were disappointing. He also formed a short-lived group called The New Mamas & the Papas with his daughter Mackenzie, Denny Doherty, and Spanky McFarlane.

Drug addiction, legal troubles, and health problems marked John’s later years. He was arrested for drug trafficking in 1980 and faced a possible life sentence, but he avoided prison by testifying against his suppliers and entering a rehabilitation program.

He also underwent a liver transplant in 1992 after being diagnosed with hepatitis C. He continued to perform and record sporadically until he died in 2001.


John Phillips died on March 18, 2001, at the age of 65, from heart failure at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

His family and friends surrounded him, including his fourth wife Farnaz, his children Chynna, Mackenzie, Jeffrey, and Tamerlane, and his former bandmates Michelle and Denny. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea.


John Phillips was involved in several controversies throughout his life, mostly related to his drug addiction, sexual behavior, and legal issues. Some of the most notable ones are:

  • He was accused of having an affair with Cass Elliot, his bandmate in The Mamas & the Papas, which caused tension and jealousy among the group members, especially his wife Michelle.
  • He was also accused of having an affair with Michelle’s sister, Jill Gibson, who briefly replaced Michelle in the group in 1966 after Michelle was fired for her affair with Denny Doherty.
  • He was sued by his former manager, Alan Pariser, for breach of contract and fraud after he fired him in 1967 and refused to pay him his commissions. The case was settled out of court in 1971.
  • He was arrested for drug possession several times, including in 1973, when he was found with cocaine and heroin in his hotel room in London, and 1980, when he was caught with cocaine and a handgun in his car in Florida.
  • He was charged with drug trafficking in 1980 after he was implicated in a drug ring that smuggled cocaine from South America to the U.S. He faced a possible life sentence. Still, he avoided prison by testifying against his suppliers and entering a rehabilitation program. He was also placed on five-year probation and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service.
  • He was accused of having an incestuous relationship with his daughter, Mackenzie, for several years, starting when she was 19. Mackenzie revealed the allegations in 2009 in her memoir High on Arrival and several media interviews.

John denied the allegations, but Mackenzie maintained that they were true. The allegations caused a rift in the family, as some of his children and ex-wives supported Mackenzie while others defended John.

Social Media

  • Instagram handle: N/A
  • Twitter handle: N/A


  • The Man Who Fell to Earth
  • The Last Movie
  • Knots Landing
  • Monterey Pop


John Phillips released several albums and singles as a solo artist and a member of various groups. Some of his most notable works are:

  • John Phillips (John, the Wolf King of L.A.) (1970), his first and most acclaimed solo album, which features the songs “Mississippi,” “Holland Tunnel,” and “Drum.”
  • The Mamas & the Papas (1966), the debut album of The Mamas & the Papas, which includes the hits “California Dreamin’,” “Monday, Monday,” and “Go Where You Wanna Go.”
  • If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966), the second album of The Mamas & the Papas, which contains the songs “I Saw Her Again,” “Words of Love,” and “Dancing in the Street.”
  • Deliver (1967), the third album of The Mamas & the Papas, which features the tracks “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “Creeque Alley,” and “Look Through My Window.”
  • The Papas & the Mamas (1968), the fourth and final album of The Mamas & the Papas, which includes the songs “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon),” and “Safe in My Garden.”
  • People Like Us (1971), the fifth and reunion album of The Mamas & the Papas, which contains the songs “People Like Us,” “Pacific Coast Highway,” and “Step Out.”
  • Pay Pack & Follow (2001), his second and posthumous solo album, recorded in the 1970s with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, was released after his death. It features the songs “She’s Just 14”, “Zulu Warrior”, and “Wilderness of Love”.


John Phillips wrote and co-wrote several books, mostly autobiographical and musical. Some of his books are:

  • Papa John: An Autobiography (1986), his memoir, which chronicles his life, career, and struggles with drugs and relationships.
  • California Dreamin’: The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas (1986), a book he co-wrote with his ex-wife Michelle Phillips, tells the story of their group and their impact on the music scene.
  • John Phillips Songbook (1992), a collection of his songs, lyrics, and sheet music, with an introduction by Scott McKenzie.
  • John Phillips Presents the Festival (1997), a book he co-wrote with Jim Marshall, documents the Monterey Pop Festival and its performers with photographs and interviews.

Net Worth

According to various sources, John Phillips had an estimated net worth of $10 million at the time of his death.

He earned most of his wealth from his music career, especially from his royalties as a songwriter. He also had some income from his film and television appearances, such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Last Movie, and Knots Landing.

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