Morgana King

Morgana King

King with Dean Martin, 1968.
Background information
Birth name Maria Grazia Morgana Messina
Born (1930-06-04) June 4, 1930
Pleasantville, New York, U.S.
Genres Vocal jazz, cool jazz, jazz blues, bossa nova, bebop, traditional pop
Occupation(s) Singer, actress
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1946–1998
Labels Ascot, EmArcy, Mainstream, Mercury, Muse, Paramount, Reprise, Savoy, United Artists, Verve, Wing

Morgana King (born June 4, 1930) is an American jazz singer and actress.[1][2][3] Her best-known role was that of Carmela Corleone in The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974).[4][5]

Early life

King was born Maria Grazia Morgana Messina in Pleasantville, New York. Her parents were from Fiumefreddo di Sicilia, Province of Catania, Sicily.[6] She grew up in New York City with five siblings.[7] Her father, who owned a coal and ice business, played the piano and guitar by ear.[8][9] Her family experienced a difficult financial period after her father died.[7]

Around the age of thirteen her vocal gifts were recognized when she was overheard singing the aria "I'll See You Again" from Noël Coward's operetta Bitter Sweet. At age 16 she developed a love for big bands.[10][11] A scholarship to the Metropolitan School of Music soon followed.

Singing debut

Her professional singing career began at age sixteen as Morgana King.[12] When she sang in a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1953, a record label executive took interest after being impressed with the unique phrasing and multi-octave range. Three years later in 1956, her first album, For You, For Me, For Evermore, was released.[13]

Film debut

In the first appearance of Leonard G. Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz (1960), Morgana King stated that her ambition was "… to become a dramatic actress."[14] She began her acting career in The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola,[15] as Carmela Corleone, wife of Don Vito Corleone. In the film, she sang the song "Luna mezzo mare". King appeared as herself in the television documentary The Godfather: Behind the Scenes (1971).[16] She reprised the role in The Godfather: Part II (1974).[4][5][17][18]



King headlined clubs, concert halls and hotels, and toured throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and South America; e.g.: Basin Street;[19] bla-bla café;[20] Blue Note;[21] Blue Room at the Supper Club;[22] Café Leon;[23] Club Bali;[24][25] Cotton Club;[26][27] Fat Tuesday's;[28] Jilly's;[29] Joe Howard's Place;[30] Kenny's Castaways;[31] Lainie's Room;[32] Les Mouches;[33] Lush Life;[34] Mr. Sam's;[35] Rainbow Grill;[36] Reno Sweeney;[37] Scullers;[38] Sniffen Court;[39] Sweet Basil;[40] The Metropole;[41] Town Hall;[42][43] the Waterbury Hotels;[44] and Trude Heller's.[45]

A few of the venue performances during her active career: the March 1956 Easter Jazz Festival at Town Hall in New York City;[43] she opened Trude Heller's in July 1957 and returned throughout her career for anniversary performances;[45] four months later, in November 1957, along with seven female jazz instrumentalists, she performed at the Jazz Female concert held at Carnegie Recital Hall;[46] the Schaefer Music Festival in June 1976;[47] A Tribute to Billie Holiday at the Hollywood Bowl in July 1979;[48] the AIDS Research – Benefit Bash in 1983,[49] the Benefit for the Theater Off Park in May 1988;[50] the 2nd annual WPBX Jazz Festival at the Fine Arts Theater in August 1989.[51] While performing in Lisbon, Portugal, she was interviewed by the television show host Henrique Mendes at the television station RTP (the sole television station at that time)."[52]


A limited list of artists who performed and/or recorded with Morgana King over the years of her career are Ben Aronov,[53][54] Ronnie Bedford,[55] Ed Caccavale (drums), Clifford Carter,[56] Don Costa,[57] Eddie Daniels,[58] Sue Evans,[59] Larry Fallon,[60] Sammy Figueroa,[61] John Kaye (percussion), Helen Keane,[62] Art Koenig,[63] Steve LaSpina,[64] Scott Lee,[65] Jay Leonhart,[66] Ray Mantilla,[67] Bill Mays,[68] Charles McCracken,[69] Ted Nash,[70] Adam Nussbaum,[71] Warren Odze,[72] Joe Puma,[73] Don Rebic,[74] Jack Wilkins,[75] Joe Williams (bass), and Torrie Zito.[76][77][78][79][80]


Her repertoire contains more than two hundred songs on more than thirty albums.[77][78][79][80] Most of her recordings and re-issues have not remained in the catalogs.[81][82][83][84][85]

In 1964, she received a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist.

The UCLA Music Library's Jimmy Van Heusen papers include a letter dated September 5, 1965 pertaining to "songs… to be given to Morgana King."[86] She recorded three songs by Van Heusen: "Here's That Rainy Day" (on It's a Quiet Thing, 1965), "Like Someone in Love" (on Stardust, 1986; and Another Time, Another Space, 1992) and "Imagination" (on Looking Through The Eyes Of Love, 1998). King's 1967 single "I Have Loved Me A Man" appeared in the US "Easy Listening" survey and the Australian Top 20, according to the Kent Music Report.


Morgana King appeared in five films, including The Godfather Parts I and II (1972 and 1974).


Beginning with The Andy Williams Show and The Hollywood Palace in 1964. For more than a decade she performed on television talk and variety shows including The Mike Douglas Show, The Dean Martin Show and The David Frost Show.[52][87]


King announced her retirement from performing during an engagement at the Cotton Club in Chicago on Friday, December 10, 1993, and added that her recording would not be affected by the decision.[88] She continued to perform after that date at the Ballroom,[89] Maxim's,[90] Mirage Night Club (a benefit jazz session),[91] and Roosevelt Hotel's Cinegrill.[92] Her last film appearance was in the film A Brooklyn State of Mind (1987).

Personal life

Relationships and family

Morgana King married twice. Her first marriage (when she was 17 years old) was to jazz trumpeter Tony Fruscella[93][94][95][96] (1927–1969), which ended in divorce after nine years; they had a daughter, Graysan (1950–2008).[97] During their marriage, the couple frequently had "Sunday dinner with Charlie Parker and his family."[98]

Her second marriage, in 1961, was to jazz trombonist Willie Dennis (né William DeBerardinis; 1926–1965),[99][100] whom she met during an off-night visit to the Birdland Jazz Club[101] where she went to hear Sam Donahue's group. He had performed with both Gerry Mulligan[102] and Charles Mingus[103] and recorded the 1953 album release, Four Trombones[104] on Mingus' record label, Debut Records. He had toured extensively with Benny Goodman,[105] Woody Herman[106] and Buddy Rich.[107] His skills and prior experience helped her to compose her album, With a Taste of Honey. She traveled to Brazil with Dennis to experience this "new" music style when he toured with Rich in 1960. She said the experience was "an introduction to myself."[9] Their close collaboration was suddenly shattered in 1965 with his death from an automobile accident in New York's Central Park.[108][109]It's a Quiet Thing (Reprise, 1965) is a memorial to him.

After Dennis's death, King relocated and lived for more than two decades in Malibu, California. She accepted Frank Sinatra's offer to record three albums on his record label Reprise Records (It's A Quiet Thing (1965), Wild Is Love (1966) and Gemini Changes (1967)).


King's voice is notable for its four-octave range.[12][35][110][111][112] She continued to pursue new forms of expression and presentation by exploring current music trends, which can be heard and read from the list of songs and composers on more than thirty albums. She ventured into new creative areas throughout her career all the while keeping contact with her musical point of origin in jazz. Her distinctive sound has its criticism and detractors.[34][88][113][114]

In literature, the Library of Jazz Standards by Ronny Schiff (2002)[115] recognizes Morgana King as one of the performers who made famous the songs "Imagination" (Van Heusen, Burke), "Like Someone in Love" (Van Heusen, Burke) and "Will You Be Mine" (Adair, Dennis). Also, there is the occasional mention of her in fiction.[116][117][118][119][120]

King has been credited with composing "Moe's Blues", a song recorded by Beverly Kenney on Beverly Kenney Sings for Johnny Smith (1955),[3] and "Simply Eloquent", with Monte Oliver, which appears on an album of the same title, initially released in 1986 by Muse Records. In 1991, she produced a set of seminars called Morgana King Fine Arts Series. The seminars brought together small groups for recurring meetings every few months held at select venues including Lincoln Center. One of the functions of the series was to familiarize participants with performance methodologies. There was a panel available to critique the performances.[7]

Her signature song is "A Taste Of Honey", originally released on the album With A Taste of Honey (Mainstream Records, 1964). Her most re-issued songs are "My Funny Valentine", from Everything Must Change (Muse, 1978), and the title track of For You, For Me, For Evermore (EmArcy Records, 1956).[77][78][79][80]



Year Title Role
1997 A Brooklyn State of Mind Aunt Rose
1987 A Time to Remember, aka Miracle in a Manger Mama Theresa
1978 Nunzio Mrs. Sabatino
1974 The Godfather: Part II Carmela Corleone
1972 The Godfather Carmela Corleone
Year Title Role Notes
1993 All My Children Soap opera Promotional title "The Summer of Seduction"
Mrs. Manganaro
1985 Deadly Intentions TV Movie Anna Livanos
1977 The Godfather Saga Mini-series Mama Corleone (ep numbers 1.1 through 1.4)
1976 Jigsaw John: Thicker Than Blood Series Zoe Pappas
1974 The Mike Douglas Show Talk show Herself
1973 The Mike Douglas Show Talk show Herself (sn 10, ep 170)
1972 The Mike Douglas Show Talk show Herself (sn 10, ep 165)
1972 The Mike Douglas Show Talk show Herself (sn 10, ep 105)
1972 The Virginia Graham Show Talk show Herself
1972 The David Frost Show Talk show Herself (sn 4, ep 130)
1971 The Virginia Graham Show Talk show Herself
1971 The Mike Douglas Show Talk show Herself (sn 9, ep 114)
1971 The Godfather: Behind the Scenes Documentary Herself
1970 The David Frost Show Talk show Herself
1969 Playboy After Dark Variety show Herself (sn 1, eps 3 & 12)
1968 The Dean Martin Show Variety show Performed "When The World Was Young" (sn 4, ep 8)
1968 The Dean Martin Show Variety show Performed "I Have Loved Me A Man".
Also performed "So Long", "Now Is The Hour" and "Auld Lang Syne" with Dean Martin. (sn 3, ep 29)
1968 The Woody Woodbury Show Talk show Herself
1968 The Pat Boone Show Variety show Herself
1968 The Rosey Grier Show Talk show Herself
1967 The Mike Douglas Show Talk show Herself (sn 5, ep 87)
1966 The Dean Martin Show Variety show Performed "Mountain High, Valley Low".
Also performed "Loch Lomond" and "Goodnight, Irene" with Dean Martin. (sn 1, ep 27)
1966 The Hollywood Palace Variety show Herself (sn 4, ep 7)
1966 The Hollywood Palace Variety show Herself (sn 4, ep 3)
1965 The Mike Douglas Show Talk show Herself (sn 4, ep 28)
1964 The Hollywood Palace Variety show Performed "A Taste Of Honey (sn 3, ep 6)"
1964 The Andy Williams Show Variety show Performed "Corcovado" with Andy Williams (sn 2, ep 4).


Year Film Format Available
2008 The Godfather: Restored Trilogy BD, DVD Yes
The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration DVD Yes
2006 The Godfather Part II: Restored DVD Yes
2005 A Brooklyn State of Mind DVD Yes
2004 The Godfather Part II (1974): Widescreen; Dubbed; Re-mastered DVD Yes
The Godfather: Widescreen Edition DVD Yes
2005 A Brooklyn State of Mind DVD Yes
A Tribute To Billie Holiday: Recorded Live At the Hollywood Bowl (1979) DVD: Morgana King interview and performances: "Easy Living", As Time Goes By" and "God Bless The Child" No
2001 Gordon Willis on Cinematography (Uncredited: Carmela Corleone) Archive footage No
1992 The Godfather Trilogy: 1901–1980 Archive footage No



  1. Liner notes by Joel Dorn – Morgana King album The Complete Reprise Recordings (2000).
  2. Liner notes by Ed Osborne – Morgana King re-issue album It's A Quite Thing (2006).
  3. 1 2 Beverly Kenny Sings For Johnny Smith. Toshiba EMI Japan 1955 song "Moe's Blues", track listing 11.
  4. 1 2 Nichols, Peter M. The New York Times Guide to the Best 1000 Movies Ever Made (2004), p. 390; ISBN 0-312-32611-4
  5. 1 2 Maltin, Leonard Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide (2008), p. 530; ISBN 0-452-28978-5
  6. Vernon Scott (May 3, 1971). Singer in 'Godfather' Role. The Deseret News
  7. 1 2 3 Morgana King's Songs Offer Relief. Chicago Sun-Times, November 13, 1992, p. 19, Weekend Plus
  8. Leonard Feather & Ira Gitler. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (2007) p. 385; ISBN 0-19-532000-X
  9. 1 2 "Morgana King Charms Her Audience With Style." New York Times, January 20, 1970
  10. "Noël Coward Society". December 16, 1969. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  11. "Bitter Sweet". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  12. 1 2 JAZZ: Morgana King, New York Times September 2, 1985
  13. Andy Gregory, Eur. International Who's Who in Popular Music (2002), p. 278; ISBN 1-85743-161-8
  14. Feather, Leonard. Encyclopedia of Jazz Horizon Press, ISBN 978-0-8180-1203-7.
  15. "Zoetrope". Zoetrope. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  16. "The Godfather: Behind the Scenes": IBDb by Morgana King
  17. Ben Fong-Torres (March 14, 1974). "Morgana King won't play dead". Rolling Stone, Issue 156 by
  18. IMDb profile: Godfather II
  19. "Morgana King opened to a packed house". Billboard, September 25, 1954, vol 77, pg. 39
  20. Ross, Sandy. bla-bla café; ISBN 0-9777227-0-8.
  21. Stephen Holden, (January 30, 1987). "Morgana King, the Blue Note" New York Times
  22. Stephen Holden, (March 5, 1993). "Where Stardust Dreams Are, Always" New York Times
  23. Jazz vocalist Morgana King appeared at the Café Leon Down Beat, 1961, p. 55
  24. The InTowner 'U' Street – Club Bali.pdf Scenes from the Past…
  25. 'U' Street Jazz Club Bali Venues
  26. "Cotton Club… Morgana King" by Lynn Voedisch. Chicago Sun-Times, October 30, 1992
  27. Lloyd Sachs (June 10, 1992). "… jazz vocalist, Morgana King, will perform at the Cotton Cotton." Chicago Sun-Times.
  28. "Morgana King will sing tonight [at] Fat Tuesday's". The New York Times, February 14, 1986
  29. Morgana King Down Beat, 1960 page 69
  30. "Morgana King" Down Beat, Volume 28 (1961), p. 48
  31. Morgana King, Kenny's Castaways. The New York Times, March 24, 1974
  32. Morgana King—Lainie's Room. The New York Times, April 9, 1978 Arts and Leisure Guide
  33. Morgana King, singer at Les Mouches. The New York Times, May 13, 1979 Arts and Leisure Guide
  34. 1 2 Cabaret: "Morgana King at Lush Life". The New York Times, March 29, 1982
  35. 1 2 Stephen Holden (July 4, 1986). "Cabaret: Morgana King". The New York Times
  36. Dramatic Singing by Morgana King. The New York Times, January 26, 1972 Review
  37. Morgana King at Reno Sweeney. New York Magazine, December 19, 1977, p. 32.
  38. "A Feast For Boston's Jazz Fans." by Fernando Gonzalez, The Boston Globe, April 13, 1990
  39. Morgana King's instrumental group. The New York Times, July 8, 1963
  40. Going Out Guide. The New York Times, December 20, 1980 Farther Downtown
  41. "Morgana King, jazz singer, at The Metropole." The New York Times, March 17, 1967 Cabaret Tonight.
  42. "The Town Hall". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  43. 1 2 "Jazz Ensembles Sound Seasonal Note With an Easter Festival at Town Hall." The New York Times, March 31, 1956.
  44. Waterbury hotels. The New York Times, January 3, 1988 Connecticut Guide.
  45. 1 2 Morgana King… Trude Heller's. The New York Times, July 5, 1977 and July 10, 1977 Going Out Guide, Arts and Leisure Guide
  46. Women Offer Jazz Concert. New York Times, November 30, 1957
  47. "Schaefer Festival Opens On June 14 With Mancini." The New York Times, May 25, 1976
  48. "A Tribute to Billie Holiday, Hollywood Bowl, July 1979". September 9, 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  49. Jet September 26, 1983, v. 65, no. 3, pg. 45.
  50. Robert E. Tomasson (May 22, 1988) "Social Events, Harlem Celebrations". New York Times
  51. 'Long Island Guide'. The New York Times, July 30, 1989 Anniversary Fair.
  52. 1 2 Morgana King IMDb profile
  53. Ben Aronov at Allmusic
  54. John S. Wilson (Oct 29, 1984) "Music: Noted In Brief; Ben Aronov Plays Solo Jazz Piano". New York Times,
  55. Ronnie Bedford at Allmusic
  56. "Clifford Carter". Clifford Carter. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  57. Don Costa at Discogs
  58. "Eddie Daniels". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  59. Sue Evans at Allmusic
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  61. "Sammy Figueroa". Sammy Figueroa. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  62. Helen Keane at University of Pittsburgh
  63. Art Koenig at Concerned Musicians, Local 802
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  65. "Scott Lee". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  66. "Jay Leonhart". Jay Leonhart. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  67. "Ray Mantilla". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  68. "Bill Mays". Bill Mays. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  69. Charles McCracken at Allmusic
  70. Ted Nash at Allmusic
  71. Adam Nussbaus at Allmusic
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  73. Joe Puma at Classic Jazz Guitar
  74. "Don Rebic". Don Rebic. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  75. "Jack Wilkins". Jack Wilkins. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  76. Torrie Zito at Jazz Professional
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  79. 1 2 3 Morgana King at MTV
  80. 1 2 3 Morgana King at Yahoo! Music
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  82. King profile at Rhapsody
  83. King profile at MP3
  84. King at MP3 Downloads
  85. King profile at Vinyl Revolution
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  88. 1 2 Lloyd Sachs (December 13, 1993). "Morgana King Says Show Was Her Last". Chicago Sun-Times
  89. Stephen Holden (May 26, 1994). "Morgana King Still Offers Sensuality and Honey". New York Times
  90. A Dearth of Song And Dance. The Record, September 18, 1997 by Bill Ervolino
  91. Bob Herbert (May 20, 1996) "In America, Bird & Max". New York Times
  92. Don Heckman (June 6, 2000). "Morgana King, Still Unique in Rare Appearance". Los Angeles Times.
  93. Tony Fruscella profile at Jazz Discography
  94. Tony Fruscella at
  95. Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas All Music Guide to Jazz, The Definitive Guide to Jazz Music (2002), p. 443; ISBN 0-87930-717-X
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  97. Liner Notes on I Just Can't Stop Loving You (1991).
  98. Yanow, Scott The Trumpet Kings (2001), p. 162; ISBN 0-87930-640-8
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  101. "Birdland". Retrieved November 30, 2011.
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  107. "Buddy Rich". Buddy Rich. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  108. Jack, Gordon Fifties Jazz Talk, An Oral Retrospective (2004), p. 85; ISBN 0-8108-4997-6
  109. Liner notes for the album, It's A Quiet Thing.
  110. "… Remarkable, four-octave voice, has a distinctive and compelling vocal style…". New York Times, May 18, 1973 by John Rockwell
  111. , Stephen Holden (February 20, 1983). "Pop: Morgana King, Singer, at Tuesday's."The New York Times
  112. New York Magazine, December 24, 1973 p. 52
  113. " "Electrified Sounds Blur Intimate Style Of Morgana King" New York Times, November 3, 1974
  114. "Sentiment, and a Strong Sense of Challenge." New York Times, October 17, 1965
  115. Schiff, Ronny Library of Jazz Standards (2002); ISBN 0-8256-2757-5
  116. Cott, Jonathan. Back To A Shadow In The Night, Music Writings and Interviews, 1968–2001 (2003), p. 330; ISBN 0-634-03596-7
  117. Gibson, Margaret. Sweet Poison (1995), p. 157; ISBN 0-00-647962-6
  118. Palmer, Michael. The Society (2005), p. 197; ISBN 0-553-80204-6
  119. Price, Richard Bloodbrothers (1999) p. 52; ISBN 0-312-42869-3
  120. Monique Guillory, Richard C. Green Soul: Black Power, Politics, and Pleasure (1997), p. 83; ISBN 0-8147-3085-X
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