Don Black"Mort Shuman was a big man. So big, in fact, that his towering body housed many musical talents.  There was the Nashville Mort, to the manor born in a ten gallon hat, snakeskin boots, picking out tunes on a dented guitar.  There was the Parisienne Mort singing songs in  French to sophisticated nightclub audiences.  There was the Harlem Mort who loved to hang out with black musicians smokin’ and drinkin’ until he dropped.  There were many Mort’s, all of them with an unquenchable lust for life and wall with inexhaustible appetites.

As a songwriter his place in history is assured.  Together with Doc Pomus he wrote classic rock ’n’ roll and popular music.  His most famous song is probably ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’, a hit for the Drifters in 1961.  But there were many more. ‘Young Blood’ for the Coasters in 1959, ‘Teenager in Love’ for Dion and the Belmonts in 1960.  ‘Little Sister’ for Elvis Presley in 1963. ‘Cant Get Used To Losing You’ for Andy Williams in 1969.

Mort wrote 24 songs for Elvis Presley but he also wrote to order for Janis Joplin, Ray Charles and Fats Domino.

He came to live in London in the Sixties and wrote some of his most successful songs.  Three of them became number one hits in the UK.  ‘Sha La La La Lee’ for the Small Faces, ‘Love’s Just A Broken Heart’ and ‘What Good Am I ? ‘ for Cilla Black. He also gave us ‘Little Children’ a huge hit for Billy J Kramer and ‘Sweets For My Sweet’ for The Serachers.

During a weekend in Paris in the late sixties Mort discovered one of France’s great poet singers,  Jacques Brel.  Mort translated thirty of his songs and created the off-Broadway musical, ‘Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris’. The show remains one of the three longest running musicals in off-Broadway history and is often performed in many other capital cities around the world.

Having moved to France he became one of France’s most popular personalities, both as a performer and composer, with the five Gold Albums and over fifteen film scores to his credit.

It was an honour to know him.  He was flamboyant, larger than life, witty, generous, warm, caring and he relished every moment of his all too brief 52 years on this earth.

If there is, as he liked to believe, a rock ‘n’ roll heaven, Mort with the big man playing a goose-bump riff on a beer-stained upright; puffing on a strong French cigarette and a case of the finest Dom Perignon within smiling distance."


Don Black – BASCA Gazette – MAGIC MAN OF MUSIC

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