Cole attained his greatest commercial success, however, as a vocalist specializing in warm ballads and light swing. Cole grew up in Chicago , where, by age 12, he sang and played organ in the church where his father was pastor. He formed his first jazz group, the Royal Dukes, five years later. In , after touring with a Black musical revue, he began playing in jazz clubs in Los Angeles. The trio specialized in swing music with a delicate touch in that they did not employ a drummer; also unique were the voicings of piano and guitar, often juxtaposed to sound like a single instrument. An influence on jazz pianists such as Oscar Peterson , Cole was known for a compact, syncopated piano style with clean, spare, melodic phrases. They found their greatest success, however, when Cole began doubling as a solo singer. Noted for his warm tone and flawless phrasing, Cole was regarded among the top male vocalists, although jazz critics tended to regret his near-abandonment of the piano. By the s, he worked almost exclusively as a singer, with such notable arrangers as Nelson Riddle and Billy May providing lush orchestral accompaniment. The show fell victim to the bigotry of the times, however, and was canceled after one season; few sponsors were willing to be associated with a Black entertainer.
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Aware that he had cancer, the singer thought he was recovering after the removal of his lung, but doctors said the disease had spread beyond control. Only the day before his death, Cole was taken for a short ride in his car by his wife, and a few days earlier he had visited his children briefly at the family home, an imposing brick mansion at S. Muirfield Road in the Hancock Park district. But last week, when comedian Jack Benny was visiting another friend, he inquired about Cole, and the singer invited him in for a minute chat. Cole wrote and released her own optimistic statements — as if they had come from him.
When I perform it's like sitting down at my piano and telling fairy stories. Facebook Twitter Email. Died Feb. While Nat "King" Cole started his own band, the King Cole Trio, in , he found real chart success after going solo in In total, Cole recorded 28 Top 40 hits. Did you know? Cole's daughter, Natalie Cole , released a duet version of "Unforgettable" 40 years after its release.
He recorded over songs that became hits on the pop charts. His trio was the model for small jazz ensembles that followed. Cole also acted in films and on television and performed on Broadway. He was the first African-American man to host an American television series. He was the father of singer-songwriter Natalie Cole — Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. We Have No Bananas " at the age of four.