The Grammy Museum has announced the new exhibit This Is Nat King Cole, which will bookend the centennial celebrations for the beloved singer and open on 17 March, running through the summer.
The launch day of the exhibit is the 101st anniversary of Cole’s birth, and his daughters Timolin and Casey Cole will be at the opening to talk about the stories behind it with moderator Scott Goldman. The event will be held at the Museum’s Clive Davis Theatre.
This Is Nat King Cole will offer a revealing insight into the life and career of this Grammy-winning recipient of the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. It will celebrate his most significant professional accomplishments and his relationship with Capitol Records, his longtime recording home. There will also be a glimpse into his personal life, via handwritten letters to Cole’s wife and family, among other items.
The masterful pianist-vocalist’s first focus was jazz, as the leader of the Nat King Cole Trio from the late 1930s. He signed to Capitol in 1943 and released the debut album The King Cole Trio a year later. As the LP format established itself, it topped Billboard‘s inaugural album chart. Nat went on to record nearly 700 songs for Capitol, including 150 singles that entered Billboard‘s Pop, R&B and Country charts.
Such was his success that Capitol’s famous round offices on Vine Street in Hollywood became informally known as “The House That Nat Built.” Cole is also rightly recognised for his contributions to the civil rights movement, as reflected in the exhibit, which portrays him as a key figure in several sociopolitical advancements. It captures the arc of Cole’s professional and personal life and how he overcame adversity with civility, respect and talent as well as political, cultural and business savvy.
“Our hearts are full”
“We are so excited that our father is being honoured at the GRAMMY Museum in celebration of his centennial,” say Casey and Timolin Cole, “and even more special that it is on his birthday. Our hearts are full knowing that after all these years his music lives on in the hearts of so many.”
Grammy Museum president Michael Sticka adds: “Nat King Cole’s legacy as an iconic, American artist is unparalleled, making him an undeniable national treasure. It’s an honour for the Grammy Museum to host this exhibit and celebrate his incredible achievements and musical legacy.”
Highlights of the exhibit include the tuxedo that Cole wore during his 1960 visit with Queen Elizabeth; the kimono given to the artist during a 1960 visit to Japan; his Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, given posthumously in 1990; and a collection of handwritten letters to his wife, Maria, written between 1948 and 1956.
Also on display will be a beaded gown worn by Maria Cole at a celebration of Nat’s 25 years with Capitol Records; and a Tiffany sterling silver box from activists Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver, presented to Cole as a gift and engraved “Nat King Cole, The Best Friend A Song Ever Had.”