Happy birthday Nat King Cole!

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Nathaniel Adam Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965) was an American singer and musician who first became known for his skills as a jazz pianist. Cole was one of the first African Americans ever to host a variety show, The Nat King Cole Show. Although Cole stated that he considered himself an entertainer and not an activist, his position as a public figure thrust him into the civil rights movement. As a television personality, his presence in people's homes helped lessen some of the country's racial tensions. Cole was close friends with contemporary heavyweights such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. Cole's most popular songs included "Unforgettable", "Mona Lisa", "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons", among others.

Unforgettable

 

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After a childhood of classical piano training, Cole dropped out of school at age 15 to play jazz piano. He soon formed the King Cole Trio, which played songs like "That Ain't Right", "The Christmas Song" and the ballad "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons." The group became so successful that their revenue was largely responsible for financing the Capitol Records building. It became known as "The House that Nat Built."

(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons, live at the Apollo, 1955

 

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Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald

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In 1946, the King Cole Trio paid to have their own 15-minute radio program on the air. It was the first radio program sponsored by a black musician, and the program was extremely popular.

Mona Lisa, live

"Ramblin' Rose"

In November 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC, hosted by Cole himself. The program was originally 15 minutes long, but eventually grew to a half-hour segment, and featured many of Cole's renowned contemporaries, like Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Peggy Lee, and Eartha Kitt. The show was canceled after a year because of a lack of sponsors, of which Cole said, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark."

Nat King Cole and his wife, Maria Cole

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When I Fall in Love

Love Me Tender

Cole continued to appear on television, in programs like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Garry Moore Show. He also went on to appear in several films, including Istanbul (1957) with Errol Flynn and China Gate (1957) with Angie Dickinson. His biggest role was in St. Louis Blues (1958), which also starred Eartha Kitt and Cab Calloway.

Nat King Cole performs the full St. Louis Blues

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Nat King Cole and Oscar Moore

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In 1964, Cole was diagnosed with lung cancer, and died just a few months later at the age of 45. His final recording, released around the same time, was L-O-V-E, which remains one of his most popular songs.

L-O-V-E (1964)

Cole's daughter Natalie is also a singer, and she helped create a hit song with their combined vocals on "Unforgettable".

Unforgettable, duet

An Evening with Nat King Cole

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 17 March 2014
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