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Cole, Nat King, 1919-1965
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- Coles, Nathaniel Adams
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1919-03-17 - 1965-02-15
Nat "King" Cole was an American jazz pianist and singer noted for his small jazz ensembles. Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Cole learned to play organ and piano, and after only a few years of formal training, dropped out of school at 15 to be a jazz pianist. He recorded a few singles with his brother, Eddie, and played in a revival of the musical "Shuffle Along". In the late 1930s he played in clubs; upon the request of a club owner, he hired bassist Wesley Prince and guitarist Oscar Moore to form the King Cole Trio. Cole had his first hit performing "Sweet Lorraine" in 1940 for Capitol Records, for whom he would record for almost his entire career.
By the end of World War II, Cole paid for his own 15-minute radio program, the first ever sponsored by a black musician, and continued to record. His popularity kept growing. At the end of 1956, NBC debuted "The Nat King Cole Show," a television variety show. It was the first television program ever hosted by an African American. Despite Cole's immense popularity, the show failed to attract a national sponsor and only lasted a year on air. Despite this, and changing tastes in music going into the 1960s, Cole was still a huge music star and continued recording hits. He was particularly well-known for a series of Spanish-language albums in 1958, '59, and '62 that extended his popularity into Latin American as well as the United States. He also continued to appear onscreen in television shows and short films.
Cole died of lung cancer at the age of 45.
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