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Rewinding the Charts: 50 Years Ago, a ‘Dumb Song About a Day of the Week’ Went to No. 1

On May 7, 1966, The Mamas & The Papas' "Monday, Monday" became the group's only chart-topping single.

DENNY DOHERTY WASN’T SOLD on The Mamas & The Papas’ “Monday, Monday” when he first recorded it in 1966. In fact, the member of the harmony-infused quartet, innovative for its blending of pop and folk – Cass Elliot and husband-and-wife duo Michelle and John Phillips rounded out the lineup – felt that the track didn’t stand out much, if at all, during the session.

“Nobody likes Monday, so I thought it was just a song about the working man,” Doherty, who sang lead vocals on the single, recalled in Matthew Greenwald’s 2002 oral history bio of the group, Go Where You Wanna Go. “Nothing about it stood out to me; it was a dumb f—ing song about a day of the week!”

Music fans disagreed. “Monday, Monday,” which was written by John Phillips, became the Los Angeles-based group’s only Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, beginning a three-week reign on May 7, 1966. The track also earned the band members (who were all in their early to mid-20s at the time, except for 30-year-old John) their only Grammy Award, for best pop performance by a duo/group with a vocal, in 1967.

Amid conflict – Michelle Phillips was fired from the act for two months after her bandmates learned of her affair with Gene Clark of The Byrds – The Mamas & The Papas released four more albums, then called it quits in 1971. Michelle remains the only living original member of the group. Elliot died of a heart attack in 1974 (not, as long rumored, from choking on a ham sandwich), while John Phillips died in 2001 and Doherty in 2007. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

A version of this article first appeared in the May 14 issue of Billboard magazine.