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Morris Levy
Please vote to return to collections (Voting Results will appear on Right Sidebar).
    (August 27, 1927-May 21, 1990)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Owned the record labels Roulette, Gone and Gee, the Birdland nightclub, the Strawberries record store chain, several publishing companies, and Sunnyview Farm
    Four of his five marriages ended in divorce, and his fifth wife had filed for divorce shortly before his death.
    He and Alan Freed attempted to claim a copyright on ‘rock and roll,’ but failed when a court ruled that the phrase had already become a generic term.
    He tacked himself on as a co-writer of songs written by acts recording for his labels to claim a slice of the royalties.
    He constantly stiffed the acts signed to his labels of the performance and songwriting royalties owed to them.
    He allegedly used his businesses to launder money for the Genovese crime family.
    After an FBI investigation of the infiltration of organized crime into the record business, he was convicted on two counts of extortion (1988).
    After losing an appeal, he died two months before he was scheduled to enter prison.
    Herman Santiago and Jimmy Merchant, members of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and co-writers of the song ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love,’ sued his estate and won $4 million in unpaid royalties (1996).
    During the trial, they testified that they had received only $1,000 for the song, which had sold over three million singles, and that when they went to Levy to ask about royalties, he replied, ‘Don’t come down here any more or I’ll have to kill you or hurt you.’
    His older brother Irving was fatally stabbed at the Birdland – possibly as a result of mistaken identity by mobsters trying to rub out Morris (1959).
    He was a major fundraiser for the United Jewish Appeal, which named him Man of the Year (1973).
    Commenting on his alleged ties to organized crime figures, he said, ‘I knew Cardinal Spellman, too. That don’t make me a Catholic.’
    He was inspiration for the character Hesh Rabkin in The Sopranos.

Credit: C. Fishel

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