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She was an accomplished jazz singer known for her portrayal in the Godfather movies (Picture: Getty)

Morgana King, a dramatic jazz singer known for her portrayal of Marlon Brandos wife in the Godfather films, has died at the age of 87.

The actress passed away on 22 March in Palm Springs, but her death was not reported at that time. It was later confirmed by the Riverside County coroners office.

A representative of the office revealed that the cause of death was non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer.

Ms Kings most famous song, A Taste of Honey was performed in nightclubs all over America. The singers career spanned more than 50 years, and with her five-octave voice, she recorded some 20 albums.

OAKLAND - CIRCA 1979: Photo of Morgana King performing in Oakland, California. Circa 1979 (Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

(Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty)

King was known for her bold and uncompromising dedication to music. She told the Bergen Record, via Washington Post, in 1988: I am a rebel. I am not a commercial artist. If I dont believe in something, I wont do it. I dont believe in super-stardom, publicity stunts and plugging records…The only thing I believe in music. I wont forfeit anything for that.



With many chasing social media acclaim in todays industry, King was a rare voice.

Fellow Jazz singer Billy Holiday thought so too. According to a 2016 article in JazzTimes, the then young King sang Body and Soul for Billie Holiday in her dressing room. The Jazz rock star said: Take care of this baby, cause thats my child.

Later, a New York Times critic compared King to Holiday, calling her a one-of-a-kind.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5886165bi) Morgana King, Marlon Brando The Godfather - 1972 Director: Francis Ford Coppola Paramount Pictures USA Scene Still Drama Le Parrain

(Picture: Rex Features)

Though her music career was steady and long, she was perhaps more famously known for her portrayal of Godfather mob bosss (played by Marlon Brando) wife Carmela Corleone in 1972 and in the sequel two years later.

Of the experience, she said she knew the culture, the psychology of the films thanks to her Sicilian parents.

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King was born Maria Grazia Morgana Messina in 1930 New York but took on her nom-de-plume Morgana, because her mum said she couldnt use her family name to perform in nightclubs. She was performing professionally by the age of 16.

In a 1988 interview with the Washington Post, she said: My mother wouldnt allow it. [My mother was] of that very old concept that to be in show business you had to be a hard-nose broad. When I was singing she never came to see me in a nightclub because of the kinds of people she thought were out on the streets at night.

Kings father, who was also a musician died when she was 11 years old and never got to see her critical acclaim. But when her first husband played her hits Corcovado and A Taste of Honey in 1964, her mum was holding her heart…that was like winning the Pulitzer Prize.



Tragedy marred parts of her life. She divorced her first husband, jazz trumpeter Tony Fruscella and went on to marry William DeBerardinis, who died in a car crash in 1965.

More: Film

Four years later, she almost died in a car crash, too. She told the Post: I was crippled, paralysed for nine months.

My instrument [she pointed to her body] was totally destroyed. I had to heal, so I went into that intense sun in the desert. I ca now get into give octaves.

She had lived quietly in Palm Springs since her last public performance in 2000.

King is survived by her grandson.

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