Sunday, March 17, 2019

Nat King Cole would be 100

Nat King Cole would have turned 100 years old today.

He was born on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1919, and died of lung cancer at age 45 on February 15, 1965.

If you subscribe to Netflix, you can stream a 2014 documentary about him called Nat King Cole: Afraid of the Dark.

The Netflix description says: “Take an in-depth look at the life and talent of the trailblazing musician who conquered racial barriers to leave an indelible mark on the jazz world.”

Notice how in the first full song in this video, “Mona Lisa,” his skin is darker than in the next song, “Nature Boy” — that's because he had to wear makeup to lighten his skin during the latter song, out of fear that the audience wouldn’t accept him with his real skin color:

His Wikipedia entry has an interesting section on his “experiences with racism."

He's best known as a singer, but he was also wonderful at instrumental jazz piano. This is from 1947, with Oscar Moore on guitar and Johnny Miller on bass (track list at the YouTube link):

Here he is singing with an orchestra (he plays piano on just a few songs, starting 21 minutes in):

Smile” is one of the most moving songs I know. The music was composed by Charlie Chaplin, and it was originally an instrumental at the end of his 1936 movie Modern Times. Cole was the first person to sing it with lyrics, in 1954:

I’m glad that sharing a birthday with Nat King Cole has nudged me to pay attention to this legendary musician.

(The photo at the beginning of this post is from Wikimedia Commons. The one at the end is from Jazz Times.)


Ike Andrews said...

That my granddaughter shares the same birthday as you and Nat King Cole attracted me to your post. I had not heard “Smile” before and found it fascinating that Chaplin had composed the music. Thanks for sharing your research. A nice nightcap after listening to “Who’s Next.”

David Begley said...

I love the use of Nat’s “LOVE” in one of my favorite movie’s “The Parent Trap” (Lindsay Lohan edition).

Greek Donkey said...

I knew he dies young, but I never realized he was only 45.

Here he is with Stubby Kaye as the singing choruses in the movie “Cat Ballou” - released in 1965.