Nat King Cole is a music legend who inspired many popular artists throughout the music industry, particularly in the jazz genre, with his deep soothing voice.
Nathaniel Adams Cole was born March 17, 1919, in Montgomery Alabama, the youngest of five. When was about four his family uprooted and moved to Chicago, where his father became a pastor, Nat played a piano and sang in the choir at church. After sneaking out of the house to listen to jazz musicians, like Louis Armstong and Earl Hines, outside of nightclubs, he would soon drop out of High School in order to pursue his musical career further.
When Nat first started music, he was in a trio called the King Cole Trio. Prior to this, fresh from dropping out of High School, he joined his older brother in a sextet that toured with Shuffle Along, this is where he would have his first “professional” recording. The King Cole Trio, comprised of Nat, Oscar Moore and Wesley Prince, had immense success and initiated Nat’s career as a vocalist, while the origins of how he began singing in the trio are speculated there is no exact story. The closest would be that a fan requested him to sing so he did and everyone in the audience instantly was captured by him.
The King Cole Trio was known for its improvisational jazz style. They eventually signed a deal with Capitol Records, with Nat snagging an exclusive solo deal for himself. The trio had the first radio program to be sponsored by a black musician, named “King Cole Trio Time”, which was a 15 minute radio program. As his popularity as a vocalist grew the less the jazz trio was needed, this led to the trio splitting and Nat becoming a solo act. His solo act became, what would be considered at the time, more pop oriented.
Midlife and Career:
In 1937 Cole married his first wife Nadine Robinson, a member of “Shuffle Along”, only to divorce her a few years later in 1948 and marry Maria Hawkins. It is speculated that Cole and Hawkins were married just days after his divorce. They welcomed three kids together Carol, Timlin, and Natalie King Cole and later down the line adopted 2 more kids. He had a series of back-to-back chart-topping hits. Around this time, he also landed a self-titled NBC show ” The Nat King Cole Show”, one of the first shows to be hosted by an African American. The show ran for three seasons before Cole himself decided to end it due to lack of sponsorship. During the prominent period of his career, not everyone was welcoming of his sound and presence. One example being in Birmingham, Alabama he was attacked on stage and knocked out his piano seat. The attack was staged by a group of white men who had seen photos circulation of Cole with white female fans. This caused his black fans to question why he always played for white audiences, hurt by the backlash from his community he became more active in publicly announcing his disdain for segregation, joining the NAACP, and assisting to plan the march on Washington in 1963.
Late Life & Career
Throughout his career ole was an avid chain smoker and continued to smoke even after he was advised to stop on many occasions. This unhealthy habit led to him being diagnosed with lung cancer in September of 1964, and dying of the illness that early next year February 15, 1965. Between the time of his diagnostic and his death he continued to record despite the doctor’s orders, this resulted in his chart topping post mortem album L-O-V-E.
Awards & Accolades
His career which lasted over three decades garnered him to receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, being inducted into over 6 Hall of Fames, and recording over 150 songs with Capitol Records, one of the only artist in history to have such a catalog the record label.
DISCOGRAPHY: Music – Nat King Cole
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