Nat King Cole

Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965 Montgomery, AL), known professionally by his stage name Nat King Cole, was an American singer, jazz pianist, and actor. Cole’s career as a jazz and pop vocalist started in the late 1930s and spanned almost three decades where he found success and recorded over 100 songs that became hits on the pop charts.

Cole started his career as a jazz pianist in the late 1930s, where he formed The King Cole Trio which became the top-selling group (and the only black act) on Capitol Records in the 1940s. His trio was the model for small jazz ensembles that followed. Starting in 1950 he transitioned to become a solo singer billed as Nat King Cole. Despite achieving mainstream success, during his career he faced intense racial discrimination. While not a major vocal public figure in the civil rights movement, Cole was a member of his local NAACP branch and participated in the 1963 March on Washington. He regularly performed for civil rights organizations. From 1956 to 1957, he hosted the NBC variety series The Nat King Cole Show, which became the first nationally broadcast television show hosted by an African American.

Some of his most notable singles include “Unforgettable“, “Smile“, “L-O-V-E“, “When I Fall in Love“, “Let There Be Love“, “Mona Lisa“, “Autumn Leaves“, “Stardust“, “Straighten Up and Fly Right“, “The Very Thought of You“, “For Sentimental Reasons“, “Embraceable You” and “Almost Like Being in Love“. His 1960 Christmas album The Magic of Christmas (also known as The Christmas Song), is the best-selling Christmas album released in the 1960s; and was ranked as one of the 40 essential Christmas albums (2019) by Rolling Stone. In 2022, his recording of “The Christmas Song“, broke the record for the longest journey to the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100, when it peaked at number nine, 62-years after it debuted on the chart; and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry. NPR named him one of the 50 Great Voices. He received numerous accolades including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1960) and a Special Achievement Golden Globe Award.Posthumously, Cole has received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1990), along with the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award (1992) and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame(2000), and the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame (2020).

He was the father of singer Natalie Cole (1950–2015), who covered her father’s songs in the 1991 album Unforgettable… with Love.Cole’s entire left lung was surgically removed. His father died of heart problems on February 1. Throughout Cole’s illness his publicists promoted the idea that he would soon be well and working, despite the private knowledge of his terminal condition. Billboard magazine reported that “Nat King Cole has successfully come through a serious operation and… the future looks bright for ‘the master’ to resume his career again”. On Valentine’s Day, Cole and his wife briefly left St. John’s to drive by the sea. He died at the hospital early in the morning hours of Monday, February 15, 1965, at the age of 45.

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