First he was George Morton, then George “Shadow” Morton, and eventually nobody ever called him anything but Shadow. George Goldner said it was because you could never find Morton when you needed him.

Goldner should have looked out at the beach, since according to legend Morton wrote this in his car while parked there:

This got him hired at Goldner’s label of the moment, Red Bird, alongside Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. And the group he brought with him to sing it — the Shangri-Las — became major stars.

Shadow Morton with Janis IanThe record business being what it was and is, Morton maintained other interests outside Red Bird. One of them was a teenager who’d written a song about interracial dating — in 1965, yet! — whom Morton signed to a development deal. The song’s title was “Baby I’ve Been Thinking”; Morton suggested a phrase from the lyric, “Society’s Child.” Both titles appeared on the label when MGM’s Verve Forecast imprint issued it in 1966; it took a year for the record to chart, ditties about miscegenation being hard to sell in those days, but Janis Ian (in the picture with Morton) finally landed in the Top 20.

Other Mortonia: the first three albums by Long Island’s Vanilla Fudge, best known for turning the Supremes’ torrid “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” into a seven-minute dirge, and, uncredited, Iron Butterfly’s magnum opus “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” (Morton said he was at the session, but didn’t do a whole lot.)

None of these, however, seemed quite as amazing as Morton’s last Shangri-Las track:

Last week Shadow Morton slipped into darkness for the last time. He was seventy-two. His records, however, are forever seventeen.

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