By Mikael Wood
1:27 PM EST, February 16, 2013
Shadow Morton, the songwriter and producer behind such 1960s pop classics as "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" and "Leader of the Pack" -- both recorded by the Shangri-Las -- is dead. According to the New York Times, Morton died Thursday in Laguna Beach; the cause, said a family friend, was cancer. He was 71.
A Brooklyn native who spent his adolescence on Long Island, Morton reportedly couldn't read music or play an instrument. But he used a feel for the highs and lows of teenage emotion -- a deep understanding not unlike that of his girl-group contemporary Phil Spector -- to create huge hits that tapped into the addictive torment of young love.
And he did it with the song-factory efficiency that defined the era: Morton claimed he wrote "Remember" in approximately 22 minutes while en route to the studio where the Shangri-Las were to record it. The song, released in 1964, went on to become a top 5 hit and ranked at No. 404 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Beyond the Shangri-Las' other hits (including "Leader of the Pack," which he co-wrote with the great Brill Building veterans Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry), Morton also produced records by Janis Ian and the New York Dolls. In 1968 he's said to have unofficially overseen the recording of Iron Butterfly's 17-minute-long "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida."
On Twitter early Saturday Mark Ronson tipped his hat to Morton, writing that Morton's songs had helped inspire "Back to Black," the 2006 Amy Winehouse album Ronson co-produced. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats added that "plenty of the music [Morton] produced is as eternal as anything gets."