Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole

“That’s why, darling, it’s incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too…”

Born Nathaniel Adams Cole in 1917, Nat “King” Cole was performing as early as 12 years old for his father’s church. Much to his parents dismay, he fell in love with jazz – a product of his jazz musician brothers. Eddie, Fred and Isaac – and got his professional start playing with his brother Eddie’s band, the Rogues of Rhythm. The prominence to which he would rise would alter the opinions and tastes of musicians and fans alike for years to come, breaking color barriers in the name of brilliance.

In search of his own career, Nat “King” Cole moved to Los Angeles, where he formed the group that would come to be known as the King Cole Trio. He got his first hit with 1943’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” based on one of this father’s sermons about a traditional black folk story.

His success continued with 1945’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “The Christmas Song in 1947, 1948’s “Nature Boy,” 1948’s “Mona Lisa” and “Too Young” in 1951. In 1951, he would also record what would become his signature song, “Unforgettable” The success of his music is also widely acknowledged for playing a significant role in financing the distinctive Capitol Records building on Vine Street in Hollywood, California, which is lovingly referred to as “the house that Nat built.”

During this time, Cole became the first black jazz musician to have his own weekly radio show; all while maintaining unparalleled mainstream commercial success. He repeated the success of his radio program with the first national television show starting a prominent African-American. Ultimately, the program was scrapped, as sponsors shied away from black artists.

Cole fought racism all his life. When he moved into an opulant area of Los Angeles in 1948, he was told by the neighbors that they didn’t want any “undesirables” living in their town. Unfazed, Cole famously replied, “Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I’ll be the first to complain.” Even when the local chapter of the KKK saw fit to burn a cross on his front lawn, Cole defiantly stayed put.

Furthermore, he refused to perform in segregated venues, which were common at the time. In 1956, he was attacked on stage in Birmingham, Alabama by members of the White Citizen’s Council. It was later found out that they were trying to kidnap him. Due to the injuries he sustained, Cole was unable to finish the set and vowed to never perform in the South again.

Though his own career ended with his death in 1965, both he and his daughter, Natalie Cole, had a hit in the summer of 1991. Remixing her father’s version of “Unforgettable” and recording a track as a duet with her father in tribute to his music proved to be popular with audiences young and old. Both the song and the album it was created for won seven Grammy Awards in the following year, ensuring generations to come will continue to enjoy his beautiful melodies.

If you consider yourself a fan of this iconic crooner, we would love to hear your thoughts and memories of Nat King Cole in our comments section below.

One Response to “Nat King Cole”

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  1. Gina says:

    Nothing quite ushers in the Christmas season like Nat King Cole singing “The Christmas Song”. Our family owns his Christmas LP and it was a tradition to play it at Christmas time.
    I also like some of his everyday songs.

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