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Shadow Morton, RIP

Shadow Morton

By all accounts possessed of a brazen, naïve genius — he played no instrument, could not read music and wrote his songs in his head — Mr. Morton was almost single-handedly responsible for the wild success of the Shangri-Las, the Queens girl group he introduced and propelled to international stardom.

The group had its first hit in 1964 with “Remember,” recorded more or less on a dare in a session frantically pulled together by Mr. Morton, who had never written a song before.

The result, with lyrics and music conceived by Mr. Morton in what he later said was about 22 minutes, was released on the Red Bird label and reached No. 5 on the Billboard singles chart.

A song of lost love, “Remember” was imbued with the lush, infectious strangeness that would prove a hallmark of Mr. Morton’s other hits. It employed a narrative, quasi-operatic plot, spoken dialogue, chanting, unconventional sound effects (in this case sea gulls) and lyrics that encapsulated all the ardor and angst of the teenage years.

The song was followed later that year by “Leader of the Pack,” written with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. It told the story of Betty, who falls for Jimmy, a young tough on a bike. – [NY Times]

Songwriter/producer Shadow Morton lost his battle with cancer earlier this week. He was 71. In addition to hits for the Shangri-Las, Morton wrote songs for Janice Ian and others, and produced Iron Butterfly’s “In-A -Gadda-Da-Vida,” as well as albums for Vanilla Fudge and The New York Dolls. Rest in peace, Shadow.

A few of his most memorable songs, below…

The Shangri-Las – “Leader of the Pack”

The Shangri-Las – “Walkin’ in the Sand”

The Shangri-Las – “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”

The Shangri-Las – “I Can Never Go Home Anymore”

Janice Ian – “Society’s Child”

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