Nat "King" Cole

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About Nat "King" Cole

Nat "King" Cole made it all sound easy. That was the art of Nathaniel Adams Coles, born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1919—he hid the sweat. His family joined the Great Migration of Black Southerners who moved North, in his case to Chicago, where Cole got a jazz combo together. Influenced by the light, punchy swing of pianist Earl Hines, Cole pioneered a cocktail trio sound that was fun and urbane. On '40s recordings like "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Sweet Lorraine," and "It's Only a Paper Moon," he emerged as a jaunty (sometimes) singer and first-rate instrumentalist. If he'd stopped there, he'd still be celebrated today. Good thing he kept going. With zero vocal training, he discovered that his conversational baritone loved a ballad and audiences loved his singing. He transitioned to a pop-jazz sound, featuring big bands and orchestras. This was night-on-the-town Rat Pack music; songs like "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," "Smile," and "When I Fall In Love" were almost courtly in their manners. An early convert to Latin rhythms, Cole learned enough Spanish to become an international icon in the '50s. Cole died in 1965, but he was on the charts again in 1991, duetting with his daughter Natalie on "Unforgettable" and a Grammy-crushing tribute album.

Montgomery, AL, United States
March 17, 1919
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