I have a clear, early childhood memory of Nat King Cole singing Mona Lisa on our living room stereo and my father's deep voice singing along with the lush melody. A nice memory...
Jazz pianist and singer Nathaniel Adams Coles (1919-1965-) was born on this day in Montgomery, Alabama. As a teenager, he played the organ at the church where his father was pastor. Young Nat formed his first band at age 18, around the time that a Los Angeles club owner nicknamed him "King" Cole in 1937.
Inspired by pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines, Cole was a consumate jazz artist and developed the right-hand style of tasteful fill-in playing. He learned his left-hand comped (chopped) rhythm from Count Basie.
"I'm a musician at heart, I know I'm not really a singer. I couldn't compete with real singers. But I sing because the public buys it," said Cole who was called "the man with the velvet voice."
Known for his relaxed singing style, the talented tenor formed the King Cole Trio, his famous piano-guitar-bass trio in 1939. His first hit, Straighten Up and Fly Right (1943) was followed by a string of classics that included It's Only a Paper Moon (1945), The Christmas Song (1947), and Nature Boy (1948).
Cole massaged the nuances of the songs he sang, holding the vowels and letting go of the consonants. He found a niche in mainstream music, becoming an internationally famous solo artist with own weekly radio (1948-1949) and television shows (1956-1957).
His daughter, Natalie, scored a multi-platinum, critical hit with Unforgettable with Love (1991), a tribute to her father which featured the technical "miracle" of father and daughter "singing together."
More MUSIC Quotations
"Unforgettable... That's what you are..."