Long before she died on March 22 at the age of 87, Morgana King had known which credit would top her obituaries. It wasn’t her decades-long career as one of the most exotic, ethereal vocal stylists in jazz; nor was it her famous 1964 recording of “A Taste of Honey,” which has the lushness and high drama of Puccini. King’s close friendship with Frank Sinatra—her biggest champion amid a fan club that included Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, and Tennessee Williams—has also gotten short shrift.
No, one achievement outshone all the others: her brief but indelible performance opposite Marlon Brando as Mama Corleone in the 1972 film The Godfather. King didn’t mind; she loved the notoriety. As of her death (of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), she had not sung publicly in 18 years. The Washington Post verified her passing earlier this week. Her grandson, Morgan Simental of Seattle, Wash.—King’s only survivor—had not made an announcement. He has not responded to requests for comment.