In 1956, Cole became the very first African American performer to host a variety television series, as well as for many white families, he was the very first black man welcomed into their living rooms each night. He’s kept world-wide popularity since his death in 1965. Known for his smooth and well-articulated sung fashion, Nat King Cole really started out as a piano guy. He first learned to play throughout the age of four with help from his mom, a church choir director. The son of a Baptist pastor, Cole could have started out playing religious music. In his early teens, Cole had proper classical piano training. He eventually left ancient for his other musical fire jazz. Earl Hines, a leader of modern jazz, was one of Cole’s largest inspirations. At 15, he dropped out of school to be a jazz pianist full time. Cole joined forces with his brother Eddie to get a time, which resulted in his first professional records in 1936.
The next year, Cole began to put together what would end up being the King Cole Trio, the name being a play on the children’s nursery rhyme. They toured widely and eventually landed on the charts in 1943 with “That Ain’t Right,” written by Cole. By the 1950s, Nat King Cole appeared as a popular solo performer. He scored numerous hits, with such tunes as “Nature Boy,” “Mona Lisa,” “Too Young, ” and “Unforgettable.” In the studio, Cole got to work with a number of the nation ‘s top talent, including Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and well-known arrangers like Nelson Riddle.
As an African American performer, Cole fought to locate his place in the Civil Rights movement. He’d struck racism first hand, particularly while touring in the South. In 1956, Cole was assaulted by white supremacists within a mixed race performance in Alabama. He was rebuked by other African Americans, yet, for his less-than-encouraging remarks about racial integration made following the show. Cole essentially took the position he was an entertainer, not an activist.
Cole’s existence on the record charts dwindled in the late 1950s. But this decline didn’t continue long. The 1962 state-influenced hit “Rambin’ Rose” reached the number two spot on the Billboard pop charts. The next spring, Cole won over music fans using the lighthearted melody “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer.” He made his last appearances on the pop charts in his life in 1964. Small successes compared to his earlier hits, Cole presented two ballads “I Do Not Want to Hurt Anymore” and “I Do Not Want to See Tomorrow” in his trademark sleek fashion.
Cole made television history in 1956, when he became the very first African American performer to host a variety TV series. Sadly, the show did not continue long, going off the air in December 1957. Cole attributed the show’s death on the dearth of a national patron. The sponsorship issue was considered a manifestation of the racial problems of the times without a firm apparently attempting to back a program that featured African American entertainers.
On the big screen, Cole had first started out in small parts in the 1940s, mostly playing some variation of himself. He got some substantial parts in the late 1950s, appearing in the Errol Flynn play Istanbul (1957). The exact same year, Cole appeared in the war play China Gate with Gene Barry and Angie Dickinson. His only important starring role came in 1958, in the play St. Louis Blues, also starring Eartha Kitt and Cab Calloway. Cole played the part of blues great W.C. Handy in the movie.
In 1964, Cole found he had lung cancer. He succumbed to the disease just months after, on February 15, 1965, in the age of 45, in Santa Monica, California. A “who is who” of the entertainment world, including the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra and Jack Benny, attended the renowned musician’s funeral, held several days after in La. Released around this time, Love proved to be Cole’s final record. The title track of the record remains extremely popular to this day, and continues to be featured on several film soundtracks.
Since his departure, Cole’s music has lasted. His performance of “The Christmas Song” is now a holiday classic and a lot of his other signature songs are often chosen for movie and television soundtracks. His daughter Natalie additionally carried on the household profession, being an effective singer in her own right. In 1991, she helped her dad reach a posthumous hit. Cole wed for the very first time when he was just 17. Just a brief time after, Cole wed vocalist Maria Hawkins Ellington, with whom he raised five kids.