This year marks the 45th anniversary of Nat King Cole's death. He died on February 15, 1965 of lung cancer.
Nat “King” Cole conquered the pop charts in the Fifties and early Sixties as a warm-voiced singer of orchestrated ballads like “Mona Lisa” and “Unforgettable” and breezy, countrified sing-alongs like “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer.” Less well known is the fact that he played a mean piano (in the style of Earl “Fatha” Hines) and led a swinging jazz trio from 1937 to 1955. Cole’s drummerless trio was an innovation, and no less an authority than Count Basie marveled at their improvisational interplay: “Those cats used to read each other’s minds—it was unbelievable.” Early stirrings of rock and roll can be detected in such swinging, lingo-filled tunes as “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66,” recorded in 1943 and 1946, respectively, by the King Cole Trio. With its three guitars, honking sax and gritty vocal, the 1957 hit “Send for Me” (#1 R&B, #6 pop) was formally as close as Cole ever got to rock and roll.
March 17, 1919
Nathaniel Adams Cole is born in Montgomery, Alabama
Cole forms the King Cole Trio with guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince.
The King Cole Trio records its first sides for the Decca label.
November 30, 1943
Cole’s first session for Capitol Records yields the classics “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?”
June 8, 1946
Cole’s recording of “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66” enters the R&B chart, where it will peak at #3. Later that summer, it becomes a pop hit as well, just missing the Top Ten.
June 10, 1950
“Mona Lisa,” a ballad that Cole initially didn't like, reaches #1 and sells 3 million copies.
August 17, 1951
Cole records “Unforgettable,” which reaches #12. Forty years later, Natalie Cole overdubs her voice onto the original, creating a father-daughter duet that nearly charts as high.
July 1, 1957
“Send for Me,” Cole’s most overtly rock & roll-oriented number, enters Billboard’s R&B chart, which it will top for two weeks.
December 1, 1957
Cole hosts the 64th and final episode of The Nat King Cole Show, a 15-minute weekly variety show aired on NBC-TV. It ends for lack of national advertisers willing to sponsor a show hosted by a black man.
September 15, 1962
“Ramblin’ Rose” reaches #2, becoming Cole's highest-charting pop single. It also hits #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #7 on the R&B chart.
February 15, 1965
Nat King Cole dies of lung cancer.
DiscographyThis is just a partial list of Nat's recordings, focusing on his early releases. There are many more re-releases and complilations featuring Nat King Cole available.
- Best Of Nat "King" Cole (EMI Records, 1968)
- L-O-V-E (EMI Records, 1965)
- Nat "King" Cole Sings, George Shearing Plays (Gold Rush, 1962)
- Ramblin' Rose (Gold Rush, 1962)
- The Christmas Song (Capitol) (EMI Records, 1961)
- The Billy May Sessions (EMI Records, 1961)
- Tell Me All About Yourself/The Touch... (EMI (Import), 1960)
- At The Sands (EMI Records, 1960)
- Big Band Cole (EMI Records, 1959)
- Everytime I Feel The Spirit (EMI Records, 1959)
- To Whom It May Concern (EMI Records, 1959)
- The Very Thought Of You (EMI Records, 1958)
- Cole Espanol, Vol. 1 (EMI Records, 1958)
- Just One Of Those Things (Gold Rush, 1957)
- Love Is The Thing (Gold Rush, 1957)
- The Complete After Midnight Sessions (Gold Rush, 1956)
- Ballads Of The Day (EMI Records, 1956)
- The Piano Style Of Nat "King" Cole (EMI Records, 1955)
- Anatomy Of A Jam Session (Black Lion, 1945)