Unforgettable- Nat “King” Cole

I was not even thought of when the great Nat King Cole recorded his music. However, his talent did not escape my ears. I have always thought he had a beautiful voice and been very fond of some of his most popular hits; Unforgettable being one of them. Flipping through the TV stations today,  I landed on the Ovation channel and saw a short biography of Mr. Cole. A naturally inquisitive person, when I see historical things that interest me I look them up on my trusty laptop to see if I can find the whole story. Imagine my surprise when I realized that Mr. Cole’s career; life were cut too short by the simple ignorance of the true harm of cigarettes. So here I included some snippets from a very informational Wikipedia article.

 

 

Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was a popular American jazz singer-Nat_King_Cole_2songwriter and pianist. Cole first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist, then switched his emphasis to singing, becoming one of the most popular and best known vocalists of all time.[citation needed]…

Inspired by the playing of Earl Hines, Cole began his performing career in the mid 1930s while he was still a teenager, and adopted the name “Nat Cole”. His older brother, Eddie Coles, a bassist, soon joined Nat’s band and they first recorded in 1936 under Eddie’s name. They were also regular performers at clubs. In fact, Nat got his nickname “King” performing at one jazz club, a nickname presumably reinforced by the otherwise-unrelated nursery rhyme about Old King Cole. He was also a pianist in a national touring revival of ragtime and Broadway theatre legend, Eubie Blake’s revue, “Shuffle Along”. When it suddenly failed in Long Beach, California, Cole decided to remain there….

Beginning in the late 1940s, Cole began recording and performing more pop-oriented material for mainstream audiences, often accompanied by a string orchestra. His stature as a popular icon was cemented during this period by hits such as “The Christmas Song” (Cole recorded the tune four times: June 14, 1946 as a pure Trio recording; August 19, 1946 with an added string section; August 24, 1953; and again in 1961 for the double album, The Nat King Cole Story. This final version, recorded in stereo, is the one most often heard today.), “Nature Boy” (1948), “Mona Lisa” (1950), “Too Young” (the #1 song in 1951)[1], and his signature tune “Unforgettable” (1951). While this shift to pop music led some jazz critics and fans to accuse Cole of selling out, he never totally abandoned his jazz roots; as late as 1956, for instance, he recorded an all-jazz album, After Midnight…

In 1958, Cole went to Havana, Cuba, to record Cole Español, an album sung entirely in Spanish. The album was so popular in Latin America as well as in the USA, that two others in the same vein followed: A Mis Amigos (sung in Spanish and Portuguese) in 1959, and More Cole Español in 1962. A Mis Amigos contains the Venezuelan hit “Ansiedad”, whose lyrics Cole had learned while performing in Caracas in 1958. Cole learned songs in languages other than English by rote….

Cole’s first marriage, to Nadine Robinson, ended in 1948. On March 28, 1948 (Easter Sunday), just six days after his divorce became final, Nat King Cole married singer Maria Hawkins Ellington – although she had sung with Ellington’s band, Ellington is no relation to Duke Ellington. They were married in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. They had five children: daughter Natalie was born in 1950, followed by adoption of Carol (the daughter of Maria’s sister, born in 1944) and an adopted son Nat Kelly Cole (born in 1959), who died in 1995 at 36. Twin girls Casey and Timolin were born in 1961.

Cole was a heavy smoker of KOOL menthol cigarettes, smoking up to three packs a day. He believed smoking kept his voice low. (He would, in fact, smoke several cigarettes in quick succession before a recording for this very purpose.) Cole, died of lung cancer on February 15, 1965, while still at the height of his singing career. The day before he died, he did a radio interview, stating: “I am feeling better than ever. I think I’ve finally got this cancer licked”. A 1997 edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul published a story stating that Cole’s wife, Maria, nearly missed his death due to car trouble, but this is an urban legend…

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Nat King Cole“.

 

Nat “King” Cole, dead at age 45. He was outlived by many of the men he had admired. I find this quite sad. My own life has been affected by damage from cigarettes. Fortunately, since these bygone eras society has become more informed about the dangers of cigarette smoke and all of my family members have lived long past the age of 45.

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