Who Is Michelle Phillips?

Michelle Phillips was a member of popular 1960s folk/pop group The Mamas and the Papas. The band had hits with "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday," before disbanding. Phillips made her film debut in 1971 with The Last Movie starring Dennis Hopper. She and Hopper were briefly married in 1970. Continuing to pursue an acting career, Phillips appeared in Valentino in 1977. She enjoyed some success on television in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the prime time soap opera Knots Landing. In more recent years, Phillips has made guest appearances on such shows as 7th Heaven. She is also the mother of singer Chynna Phillips of Wilson Phillips fame.

Early Life

Singer and actress Michelle Phillips was born Holly Michelle Gilliam on June 4, 1944, in Long Beach, California. Phillips lost her mother when she was only five years old. Raised by a single father, she lived in Mexico City for several years. Phillips eventually returned to Los Angeles where she attended high school.

Versatile and athletic, Phillips played sports as well as musical instruments in high school. She also dabbled in modeling during her school years. As a senior, she met a local musician and singer named John Phillips. He was a member of a group called the Journeymen. The teenaged Michelle quickly fell for 26-year-old performer, and the pair married in 1962. Before long, she was performing with her husband in a group called the New Journeymen along with folk singer Denny Doherty.

The Mamas and the Papas

The New Journeymen evolved into The Mamas and the Papas in 1965 with the addition of Cass Elliot. The band became hugely popular with its beautiful four-part harmonies. Michelle helped write some of the group's biggest hits, including "California Dreamin'." That song made to the number four spot on the Billboard pop charts in February 1966. Two months later, the group had their first number one hit with "Monday, Monday."

Behind the scenes, however, there was a lot of tension between the group members. Michelle Phillips and Doherty had an affair. The affair became the inspiration for the song “I Saw Her Again,” which John and Doherty co-wrote. Michelle and John Phillips separated for a time, and both pursued other relationships. Michelle became involved with Gene Clark from the Byrds, and tensions between her and John over this created even more problems for the band.

During the summer of 1966, Phillips was fired by her fellow band mates. They replaced her with Jill Gibson while working on their second self-titled album, but Phillips was soon back with the band and with her husband. Their third effort, 1967’s Deliver, featured several stand-out tracks, including a cover of the the Shirelles’ “Dedicated to the One I Love,” which made it all the way to the number two spot on the pop charts.

The group helped organize the now legendary Monterey Pop Festival held in June 1967. The festival featured such diverse acts as Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Otis Redding and Ravi Shankar. Held during the "Summer of Love," the event drew many who were part of the bourgeoning hippie scene. But this festival was the beginning of the end for The Mamas and the Papas. At the festival, the group made its last live performance.

After a failed album in 1968, The Mamas and the Papas soon fell apart. Phillips gave birth to daughter Chynna that same year. But having a new addition to the family wasn't enough to keep her and her husband together. The couple divorced in 1970.

Famous Romances

After her marriage to her first husband ended, Phillips became involved with a number of leading figures in entertainment. She was involved with actor Jack Nicholson and miscarried their child. Phillips also had a relationship with actor Warren Beatty.

In 1970, Phillips tied the knot with Dennis Hopper. Hopper had been both her director and co-star in her feature film debut The Last Movie (1971). But their union only lasted eight days. Phillips has never publicly explained why their marriage was so brief.

Later Career

After her small role in The Last Movie, Phillips landed a more substantial part in the crime drama Dillinger (1973) with Warren Oates and Ben Johnson. She received a Golden Globe nomination for her work on the film. In 1977, Phillips had some success in both television and film. She starred in the television miniseries Aspen with Sam Elliott and the biographical drama Valentino with Rudolf Nureyev. That same year, Phillips released a solo album, Victim of Romance.

By the late 1980s, Phillips had become a fixture on the prime-time soap Knots Landing. She played Nicolette Sheridan's mother on the series. After Knots Landing ended in 1993, Phillips continued to work on the small screen. Michelle appeared on shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Santa Barbara, Murder, She Wrote, Beverly Hills 90210 and 7th Heaven.

Personal Life

Phillips is the only surviving member of The Mamas and the Papas. Elliot died in 1974. She reunited with her ex-husband John and former lover Doherty in 1998 for The Mamas and the Papas' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. John passed away in 2001 and Doherty died in 2007.

In addition to her daughter, singer Chynna of Wilson Phillips fame, she is also the mother of actor Austin Hines and Aron Wilson. Austin is from her relationship with actor Grainger Hines. Phillips became Wilson's foster mother in the 1980s and later adopted him. She is also the former step-mother of actress Mackenzie Phillips.


  • Name: Michelle Phillips
  • Birth Year: 1944
  • Birth date: June 4, 1944
  • Birth State: California
  • Birth City: Long Beach
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Female
  • Best Known For: Michelle Phillips performed with 1960s folk group The Mamas and the Papas. After the group disbanded, Philips became known for her work as a television actress.
  • Industries
    • Pop
    • Rock
  • Astrological Sign: Gemini

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  • Article Title: Michelle Phillips Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/musicians/michelle-phillips
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: September 14, 2022
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014


  • Some of the things they print about me can reduce me to shock and tears. I think of myself in such different terms. To me, I'm a moderate, clean-living, struggling young actress.
  • I've worked since I was 17—and I have a need for attention.