Nat King Cole was born on March 17, 1919, in Montgomery, Alabama. Although he later became known for his soft voice, Cole was originally a pianist. When he was only four years old, his mother–a church choir director–helped him learn how to play the piano.
Cole had formal classical piano training as a teen but he quickly abandoned classical music for his true passion–jazz. By the age of 15, he had decided to drop out of high school to work as a jazz pianist full time.
Cole and his brother, Eddie, worked closely together. Their partnership resulted in Cole making his first recording in 1936. He soon joined the musical revue, ‘Shuffle Along,’ as a pianist for their national tour.
King Cole Trio
In 1937, Cole put together what would soon evolve into the King Cole Trio. They maintained a busy touring schedule and eventually landed on the charts by 1943. Their first hit was ‘That Ain’t Right,’ which was written by Cole himself. After landing on the charts, their songs (like the popular, ‘(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons’ and ‘The Christmas Song’) became hits.
In the 1950s, Cole crossed over from a jazz vocalist/pianist to a pop star. He recorded a number of hits, including ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Unforgettable.’ He was also fortunate enough to work with other talented artists, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement began while Cole was at the height of his career. Like many other artists, he experienced racism while touring through the South. He was attacked by a White mob in 1956 while performing for an integrated audience. In terms of integration, Cole acknowledged his role as an entertainer instead of an activist.
Cole received some heat for his statement from fellow musicians who were extremely outspoken about their stance regarding segregation. By the late ’50s, his career suffered as well; he was no longer on the charts.
By the early 1960s, Cole’s dwindling career began to pick up. His song, ‘Rambin’ Rose,’ reached number two on the Billboard pop charts. He recorded ‘I Don’t Want to Hurt Anymore’ and ‘I Don’t Want to See Tomorrow’ which would become his last two pop chart hits. After 1964, Cole did not appear on the pop charts anymore.
Cole later made a name for himself in film and television in 1956. He became the first Black performer to host a variety TV special, ‘The Nat King Cole Show,’ which featured some of the biggest artists of the time. The show was canceled in 1957. He then focused on film, co-starring alongside some of the biggest actors/actresses at that time.
After developing lung cancer in late 1964, Nat King Cole died on February 15, 1965, in Santa Monica, California. He was only 45 years old. He left behind a mourning music world and his family. His daughter, Natalie Cole, would soon follow in her father’s footsteps as a captivating performer.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer. Thank you.**
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