Nat "King" Cole
Music is a universal language, a language that many can speak; however, one that only few can master. One of those masters was Nat "King" Cole. A true legend, Nat not only could carry a song with his voice, but also through his incredible skills with the piano. Today, Nat is most remembered for that soft, soothing and so powerful voice; however he is recognized as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all-time.
The man today known as Nat "King" Cole was actually born in Nathaniel Adams Coles, in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17, 1917. By the age of four, his father, Edward James Coles Sr. and his mother, Perlina Adams Coles, decided it would be best that the family move to Chicago. By the time Nat reached four years of age, his father quit his job as a grocer and moved his family to Chicago, where he became a preacher.
This decision would have had a huge impact on the family as a whole, but especially in the case of Nat. Moving to Chicago was the first step in Nat’s rise to fame, the place where the foundation of a jazz superstar would be built.
As a child, Nat dreamed to be a big band leader and soloist in the tradition of his idol, Earl "Fatha" Hines. By twelve years old, Nat was already playing the organ at church, amazing for such a young man only trained by his mother. Later, Nat would be enrolled in formal piano lessons, which only further add to his impressive repertoire.
At fifteen years old, Nat decided to drop the "s" in his name, to become Nathaniel Adams Cole. By the age 17, Nat formed a 14-piece band, composed of students from both Wendall Philips and Dusable High schools in Chicago. The band would go around Chicago, working for as little as $2 or $3 a night.
In 1936, Nat made his first recording for Decca, as part of his brother Eddie’s band, the Solid Swingers; however, his time with the band would not last. Later in 1936, Nat left Chicago for Los Angeles, where he would eventually land his big break.
In Los Angeles, Nat joined a Eubie Blake’s revival of "Shuffle Along", in 1936. Here he worked with a dancer Nadine Robinson, who would later become his future wife. Nat continued his role in the musical until it disbanded in Long Beach California, in 1937.
When Shuffle’s run was ended, Nat became intensely involved in the c...
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...f his time. During his heyday, he was as popular as anyone, including the legendary Frank Sinatra. This is even more remarkable when one takes into account the fact that Nat refused to play in segregated halls – his popularity was such that he was one of the few African-Americans who could do so.
On February 15, 1965 the music world lost one of its greats. By the time his life was over, he was already a legend, having influenced the likes of Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal. Nat had performed with some of the best including Duke Ellington and performed for some of the best, including the Queen¨, he was even friends with John F. Kennedy. Though he is often remembered today as a great singer, he was also one of history’s greatest jazz pianists. It is said that as a pianist, he developed the intricate right-hand style of initiated by Hines and the sparse left-hand of Count Basiel. His records have been released and re-released and even to this day they are still popular. Through the marvels of modern technology, Nat and his daughter, Natalie (who is also a well-known artist) were reunited for a rendition of the classic, "Unforgettable", which he certainly is.
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