Lee Morgan was the toast of the jazz community and revered by his colleagues by being named trumpet player with Dizzy Gillespie at the tender age of 18. However, on a snowy night in February 1972, Lee Morgan was shot dead by his common-law wife, Helen, during a gig at a club in New York City. Helen served time for the crime and, following her release, retreated into obscurity.
20 years later, a chance encounter with Larry Reni Thomas leads to a remarkable interview in which Helen revealed audio “testimony” of the ill-fated pair’s story.
I CALLED HIM MORGAN is a cautionary tale for all musicians when dealing with a woman scorned.
Lee Morgan was a promising musician, who along with many other of that era, got strung out, unreliable and at rock bottom when he met Helen. Some years older than Lee, they found , loved and took care of each other until Lee’s attention shifted elsewhere romantically.
Helen’s voice throughout the tale is broken and slow. One feels the pain and anguish as she recalls their life. It’s almost as if she wished she had been shot instead. The lawyers made her plead to second degree manslaughter with 2-3 years probation. Upon release, she relocated down south to Wilmington and found her salvation in the church before passing away.
Lee Morgan will always be an angel in the jazz world. Those who knew him were lucky and those who have yet to discover him…man do you have a lot of catching up to do.
I Called Him Morgan can now be seen on Netflix.