Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nat King Cole: A Sound Blazing, Brief, And Beauiful

Nat King Cole (Gottlieb 01511).jpg

The inimitable American jazz pianist and singer, Nat King Cole, was born on this day in 1919 in Birmingham, Alabama. Powerline's cultural observer, Scott Johnson, posted a fine tribute to the man in 2009 so I'm not about to try and improve it. On the other hand, I will point out that Cole had a significant link to Georgia through his association with Savannah's favorite son, Johnny Mercer. 

Mercer is credited with discovering Cole in 1943 and developing his early career with Capitol Records, an enterprise founded by Mercer, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn Wallichs the previous year. Over a five month period beginning in July 1943 Mercer produced five Nat King Cole Trio recordings. They were superb examples of jazz and popular music fusion that appealed to a broad American market. The recording sold in the millions then and remain embedded in American music history today. The songs are: Tea For Two, Body and Soul, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Sweet Lorraine, and Embraceable You.

Here is a sample of that history in sound from the trio before 1955:

Cole's success brought wealth to Capitol Records, made him an international star, and enriched the world of music. His death at 45  left a world shocked and saddened but the recording have kept his talent very much alive for more than sixty years after his passing.


Photos and Illustration:
Cole at the piano, June 1947, William Gottleib Photo Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Glenn T. Eskew, Johnny Mercer: Southern Songwriter for the World, Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2013.


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