BlackFacts Details

Nat King Cole

Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American singer who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. He was widely noted for his soft baritone voice, performing in big band and jazz genres, and was a major force in popular music for three decades. Cole was one of the first African Americans to host a national television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show. His recordings remained popular worldwide after his death from lung cancer in February 1965.

Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 17, 1919.[1] He had three brothers—Eddie (1910–1970),[2] Ike (1927–2001),[3] and Freddy (born 1931)[4]—and a half-sister, Joyce Coles.[5] Each of his brothers pursued careers in music.[5] When Nat was four years old,[6] he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister.[7] Nat learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist.[8] His first performance was of "Yes! We Have No Bananas" at the age of four.[9] He began formal lessons at 12[10] and eventually learned not only jazz and gospel music but also Western classical music; he performed "from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff."[11]

The family again moved to the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago,[12] where he attended Wendel Phillips High School [13] (the same school Sam Cooke attended a few years later).[14] Cole would sneak out of the house and hang around outside clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines and Jimmie Noone.[15] He participated in Walter Dyett"s renowned music program at DuSable High School.[16]

Inspired by the performances of Hines, Cole began his performing career in the mid-1930s while still a teenager, adopting the name Nat Cole. Cole left Chicago in 1936 to lead a band in a revival of Eubie Blake"s revue Shuffle Along. His older brother, Eddie, a bass player, soon joined Cole"s band, and they made their first recording in 1936, under