The Day We Lost Nat ‘King’ Cole

February 15, 2017

The voice of one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, and a much-loved pianist too, was silenced by lung cancer on 15 February, 1965. That was when Nat ‘King’ Cole died at the age of just 45.

Nat ColeNathaniel Adams Coles, as he was born, emerged first as the leader of his jazz group the King Cole Trio, which at a time of racial segregation, was a huge achievement in its own right. Born in 1919, he was performing by the mid-1930s, and while he always sang (contrary to the convenient publicity line that he discovered his vocal talents almost by accident), Cole was primarily an instrumental pianist in his early days. He was accompanied in the trio by guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince, later succeeded by Johnny Miller.

Nat’s first appearance on the song popularity charts was in wartime: his Capitol Records 78 ‘All For You’ was listed for one week by Billboard in November 1943. Soon afterwards came the first of his many signature tunes in ‘Straighten Up And Fly Right,’ and after World War II ended, Cole’s soothing and sophisticated vocal tunes struck a chord with audiences on a succession of No. 1 songs.

Nat Cole 2The haunting and elegant ‘Nature Boy,’ based on the Yiddish song ‘Schweig Mein Hartz,’ topped the list in 1948, followed by ‘Mona Lisa’ in 1950 and ‘Too Young’ in 1951. They were classics every one, and there were to be many more. Cole amassed no fewer than 60 appearances on the charts in the 13 years up to the end of the “pre-pop” era in 1954.

Incredibly, he would very nearly repeat the feat in the new pop generation that followed, with 57 more chart entries during his lifetime and two posthumous appearances. These included such all-time Cole favourites as ‘Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup,' ‘Ramblin’ Rose’ and ‘Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer.’

There were three dozen Capitol chart albums, too, as Cole became a truly beloved entertainer, with his own TV series and a vocal technique that has been often mimicked, but never equalled.

Listen to The Extraordinary Nat ‘King’ Cole compilation on Spotify
Explore our dedicates Nat 'King' Cole Artist Page

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5 comments

  1. juan

    A finales de los 50, frecuentaba un cine que ponía sus canciones en español, antes de la proyección de turno. Su cadencia musical no tenia nada que ver con lo que se escuchaba en radio en aquel momento. Hoy recuerdo aquella maravillosa voz con el mismo magnetismo que me embargó hace 58 años.

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