Unforgettable Nat King Cole

Day 284 of Colourisation Project – February 15

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Who doesn’t have a bit of Nat King Cole in their music collection, iPod or otherwise? Cole who captured the hearts and minds of a generation with his seductive, velvety-smooth vocals and suave sophisticated style, has maintained a worldwide popularity that has endured all these years since his untimely death in 1965.

Born in in 1919, Montgomery, Alabama, Cole, the son of a Baptist minister, first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist in the late 1930s and 1940s performing with his own King Cole Trio.

Nat King Cole

Photographer: William P. Gottlieb ~ Nat King Cole c 1947 ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

By the 1950s he emerged as a popular solo performer, garnering success with his distinctive silky soft baritone voice. In a Voice of America interview, he explained;

“I started out to become a jazz pianist; in the meantime I started singing and I sang the way I felt and that’s just the way it came out.”

During his 30-year recording career, Cole recorded more than 150 singles for Capitol Records, which led to the label being affectionately tagged, ‘The House That Nat Built.’ Winner of 28 gold record awards and over 50 million records sales, Cole left an indelible imprint on American pop music with a string of hit songs that included: Route 66, For Sentimental Reasons, The Christmas Song, Nature Boy, Answer Me, Walkin’ My Baby back Home, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Ramblin’ Rose, Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer,  L-O-V-E, Unforgettable and his signature tune, Mona Lisa.

Cole also created history in 1956 by becoming the first African American to host a television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show. Featuring many of the leading stars of the day, including Count Basie, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett, it came to an end after just one year due to the lack of a national sponsor. At a time of heightened racial issues, no company seemingly wanted to back a program that featured African-American entertainers.

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Cole was a heavy smoker throughout his life and was rarely seen without a cigarette in his hand. He seriously believed that smoking up to three packs a day gave his voice its rich sound. He smoked menthol cigarettes and was known to chain smoke several cigarettes before a recording.

Nat King Cole succumbed to lung cancer on this day, February 15, 1965 a month before his 46th birthday, in Santa Monica, California.

He was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One for Television at 6229 Hollywood Boulevard and one for Recording at 6659 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

Today I leave you with this 1957 film clip from The Nat King Cole Show, which exemplifies his charm and suave, sophisticated style, singing Unforgettable.

Enjoy!

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“The people who know nothing about music are the ones always talking about it.”  ~  Nat King Cole

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