R.I.P. Shadow Morton (1940-2013)
Is it unusual to mourn the death of someone you didn’t know existed until you read his obituary? That’s certainly the case with me and George Francis “Shadow” Morton, the songwriter and producer who passed away Thursday at the age of 71.
But then, of course, I did know he existed. I knew he existed through the immortal genius of The Shangri-Las, for whom he penned a number of classic hits, including “Leader of the Pack,” “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” and my personal favorite, “Give Him a Great Big Kiss.” I knew he existed through the mythic and haunting power of those songs, which offered a thrilling and dangerous counterpoint to the more saccharine pop tunes of the era. Yes, I’ve always known he existed; I just didn’t know his name or anything about him. His work told me everything I needed to know.
His obituary in the The New York Times tells the story of a man who lived up to the mysterious nature of his songs—he called himself Shadow, after all—but it doesn’t go into too much detail, perhaps because not much is actually known.
Or perhaps the Times editorial board heeded the advice of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”