'Make Your Own Kind of Music' by Mama Cass: The making of the '60s hit turned Tiktok meme

2 March 2023, 12:16

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By Mayer Nissim

Mama Cass's solo hit single has been given a new lease of life.

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First as a key member of folk rock icons The Mamas & the Papas and then as a solo star, Ellen Naomi Cohen aka Mama Cass aka Cass Elliott recorded a string of classic singles.

One of her most well-loved was the 1969 single 'Make Your Own Kind of Music.

The song has enjoyed a new lease of life with a whole new audience as the backdrop for countless TikTok videos.

But do you know who wrote the song, who recorded it before Cass Elliot, and what it's actually all about?

Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' by Mama Cass.

Who wrote 'Make Your Own Kind of Music'?

Make Your Own Kind Of Music

'Make Your Own Kind of Music' was written by songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

The Mann/Weil team is responsible for more hits than we could even begin to list here, but we'll just mention 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'', 'Walking in the Rain' and 'We Gotta Get out of This Place' in passing.

It was Cass's follow-up single to her summer hit 'It's Getting Better', which was also written by Mann and Weil.

Who recorded 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' before Cass Elliot?

1st RECORDING OF: Make Your Own Kind Of Music - Will-O-Bees (1968)

Before Cass Elliot got her hands on it, 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' was recorded by New York City-based Will-O-Bees

The trio of Janet Blossom, Steven Porter, and Robert Merchanthouse regularly performed Mann/Weil songs, and released their version without much fanfare in August 1968.

When was Cass Elliot's 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' released and where did it get in the charts?

Mama Cass Elliot - Make Your Own Kind of Music
Mama Cass Elliot - Make Your Own Kind of Music. Picture: Alamy

'Make Your Own Kind of Music' was released in September 1969, backed with 'Lady Love'.

It reached number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 6 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

Only two months earlier, Cass had released her second album Bubblegum, Lemonade, and... Something for Mama which had opened with the Mann/Weil-penned single 'It's Getting Better'.

'Make Your Own Kind of Music' was enough of a hit that the album was revamped and re-released in December to open with the new single, and the album itself retitled Make Your Own Kind of Music/It’s Getting Better.

What is 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' actually about?

Cass Elliot - Make Your Own Kind Of Music (live)

Cass's second album had a fair bit of musical variety, but its singles – as the title suggested – were somewhat bubblegum, which Elliot herself has some reservations about, while accepting it maybe suited her "very light" voice.

A week before the release of 'Make Your Own Kind of Music', Cass told Melody Maker: "Bubblegum music is very pleasant to listen to...but it's like they say about Chinese food: half an hour after tasting it you are hungry again."

Mama Cass Elliot in 1968
Mama Cass Elliot in 1968. Picture: Getty Images

'Make Your Own Kind of Music' isn't exactly 'Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)' or 'Revolution', but it absolutely has a message in its bubblegum-ish wrapper.

Sure, it's a bit Dr Seuss-esque words of wisdom ("Just to do your thing's the hardest thing to do / You're gonna be nowhere / The loneliest kind of lonely") but it all adds up to a pretty empowering call to be yourself ("Make your own kind of music / Even if nobody else sings along").

How did TV and TikTok give 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' a whole new audience?

Lost: Make Your Own Kind Of Music

While it would feature her best ofs, 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' wasn't the biggest Cass Elliot song recorded before her tragic death in 1974.

Nevertheless, its message has resonated. At her funeral, the rabbi incorporated lyrics from the song into her eulogy, while TV producers have used it many times over.

It featured especially prominently in Lost's second season opener 'Man of Science, Man of Faith' in 2005, and popped up over and over in crime drama Dexter, even giving its name to the 93rd – and fourth last – episode of the show.

'Make Your Own Kind of Music' also appeared in episodes of The Middle and Sex Education, as well as the movies Free Guy and Beautiful Thing.

More recently, fans have been posting their own captions over a clip from 2022 movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent with a concerned Nicholas Cage looking at a somewhat exuberant Pedro Pascal, all set to Cass's classic number.

Who has covered 'Make Your Own Kind of Music'

Sing/Make Your Own Kind of Music

While Cass Ellliot's version of 'Make Your Own Kind of Music' is technically a cover with Will-O-Bees version being out a year earlier, most covers you hear today base themselves on Cass's version.

Over the years its been covered by artists including Roslyn Kind, Marilyn Maye and Barbra Streisand, with the most high-profile version by Paloma Faith in 2018.

Carmaker Škoda commissioned her version for its new vehicle the Karoq.

Skoda ft: Paloma Faith 'Make Your Own Kind of Music'

“The reality of Skoda is it was the car people took the piss out of you for having," Faith said.

"That’s how they enticed me in really, it was like that thing or person who people tease for being who they are but is now celebrated for being who they are."

Despite being recorded for an ad, the recording actually went silver with 200,000 copies sold, and found its way on to the digital version of her fourth album The Architect.