Follow TV Tropes


Music / Nat King Cole

Go To

"That's why, darling, it's incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable, too."
— "Unforgettable"

Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), better known as Nat King Cole, was a famous American jazz musician, whose career stretched from the late 1930s to his untimely death in 1965.

Cole's mainstream popularity endures thanks primarily to his unforgettable smooth, mellow vocals. However, it was his groundbreaking piano-playing style that created a new standard for other jazz pianists, whereas his singing was relatively unimportant in the development of jazz singing. That said, several of Cole's vocal recordings became massive hits and highly-remembered standards, like "Straighten Up and Fly Right", "Route 66", "Unforgettable", "Mona Lisa", and "The Christmas Song".

He was also the first African American to host his own TV variety show, and one of the earliest black actors and entertainers to headline in television at all – especially without stereotypical behavior. Nat himself was a big supporter of other black entertainers of the time, and was especially close with his contemporaries such as Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Jr., as well as outspoken about subjects like performing in front of segregated audiences (which he was against).

Cole was a heavy smoker for most of his life, and it was this that would eventually do him in. After a period of illness, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 1964. Against his doctors' wishes he continued to work for some time, wanting to finish what would turn out to be his last studio album (L-O-V-E). Despite undergoing heavy treatment thereafter, Cole passed away of complications from cancer in February 1965, at the age of 45.

Cole's piano playing inspired a generation of jazz pianists, including Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, and Horace Silver. He was also instrumental to the early success of Capitol Records, a fact implied by the nickname given to the label's famous Capitol Tower headquarters in Hollywood: "The House That Nat Built".

His daughter Natalie Cole (1950–2015) was a highly successful pop and R&B artist in her own right.

These tropes are unforgettable, too:

  • Beast Fable: "Straighten Up and Fly Right", a song wherein a vulture abducts a monkey intending to eat him, and the monkey winds up controlling the flight.
  • Christmas Songs: He recorded quite a few of them. Of particular note is the Mel Tormé–Robert Wells composition "The Christmas Song", which he first introduced in 1946 and recorded several other times; his 1961 versionnote  in particular is widely regarded as definitive and continues to be one of the most-played holiday tracks on radio each December.
  • Drive-In Theater: A verse from his 1963 hit "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer":
    Don't have to tell a girl and fella 'bout a drive-in
    Or some romantic movie scene
    Why, from the moment that those lovers start arrivin'
    You'll see more kissin' (Wolf Whistle) in the cars (Wolf Whistle) than on the screen
  • Jazz: His genre, although he had some crossover with pop and even country later in his career.
  • Projected Man: One of the first late musicians to be made into a Projected Man/Virtual Ghost in a video performance, in a 1991 posthumous duet of "Unforgettable" with his daughter Natalie Cole. (Though not the first, as Hank Williams Jr.'s 1988 recording of his father's "There's a Tear in My Beer" featured this in its video.)