Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole was a jazz pianist and singer who rose to popularity in the United States. His mellow baritone voice, which he used to use in big band and jazz genres, is responsible for most of his widespread musical fame. Cole was the first African American singer to headline a diverse selection television series in 1956, and he was the first Black man accepted into many white families’ living rooms each night.
Nat King Cole, originally named Nathaniel Adams Cole, was born on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. His mother, a church choir director, taught him to play when he was four years old. Cole, the son of a Baptist minister, may have begun off performing religious music. Cole had rigorous classical piano training in his early adolescence. He subsequently abandoned classical in favor of his second musical love, jazz. Earl Hines, a modern jazz pioneer, had a major influence on Cole. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 to pursue a career as a full-time jazz pianist. Cole was raised in Chicago, where he began singing and playing the organ at the age of 12 at the church where his father was the pastor. A half a decade later, he created his first jazz group, the Royal Dukes.
Cole’s notoriety made him the first African American to anchor a network variety show, The Nat King Cole Show, which aired on NBC television in 1956. However, the program was discontinued after one season due to the period’ racism; few sponsors were ready to be linked with a Black artist. Cole enjoyed more success with concert appearances in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he toured twice with his own vaudeville-style revues, The Merry World of Nat King Cole (1961) and Sights and Sounds(1963). His early ’60s singles, “Ramblin’ Rose,” “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer,” and “L-O-V-E,” show that he was moving away from his jazz background and focused almost entirely on popular music.
Famous Songs in the 1940s
Straighten Up And Fly Right (1943): Nat King Cole and lyricist-publisher-promoter Irving Mills wrote “Straighten Up And Fly Right” which was on the soundtrack of the 1943 comedy film Here Comes Elmer. The song was inspired by a traditional tale told by Cole’s father, Edward, between sermons. At the time, “Straighten Up And Fly Right” was a No. 1 hit and is still a popular song.
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (1946): One of the most famous American road songs is “Route 66,” written by Julie London’s husband Bobby Troup on a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. This classic rendition from 1946, also one of the finest Nat King Cole songs, demonstrates Cole’s remarkable talents as a pianist.
The Christmas Song (1946): In what many consider to be the definitive rendition of “The Christmas Song,” Cole became the first recording artist to sing the traditional holiday lyrics about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose” in 1946. On a hot summer day, legendary crooner Mel Tormé and Bob Wells co-wrote the song. Cole’s smash rendition is not only one of the finest Nat King Cole Songs, but it is also a staple of contemporary
Nature Boy (1947): The words and melody of “Nature Boy” were allegedly given to Cole’s management by the nomadic Brooklyn-born writer Eden Ahbez backstage at a concert. Cole adored the song and recorded a rendition on August 22, 1947. It quickly rose to the top of the charts and remained there for eight weeks. “Nature Boy” was a difficult song to undertake, but Cole delivered a powerful performance in his silky, baritone voice.