I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLEIN AMERICA.Graphic Image
Every week, we tell the story ofsomeone important in the history of the United States. Today we willtell about Nat King Cole, one of America's most popular singers.
Nat King Cole was born in the southern city of Montgomery,Alabama, in Nineteen-Nineteen. His parents named him Nathaniel AdamsColes. His father was a Christian minister.
When Nathaniel was four years old, his parents moved the familynorth to Chicago, Illinois. Nat learned to play the piano when hewas very young. His mother was the only piano teacher he ever had.He gave his first public performance when he was four. By the timehe was twelve, Nat was playing piano at his father's church.
Nat played piano in New York City and in Los Angeles, Californiawhen he was a young man. In Nineteen-Thirty Seven, he formed a groupthat played jazz music. Oscar Moore played the guitar and WesleyPrince played the bass. The trio reportedly did not need a drummerbecause Nat's piano playing kept the beat so well. They named thegroup, The King Cole Trio. At the same time, Nat also changed hisname into Nat King Cole. The trio soon became very popular. Nat sangsome songs, but mostly played the piano.
p>By the middle Nineteen-Forties, Nat King Cole was beginning to beknown as a popular singer as well as a jazz piano player. He was oneof the first musicians to record with new Capitol Records.
The first song he recorded for Capitol was "Straighten Up and FlyRight." He wrote the song. The words were based on his father'steachings. The song became one of the biggest hits ofNineteen-Forty-Three. It sold more than five-hundred-thousandcopies.
((CUT ONE: "Straighten Up and Fly Right"))
Nat recorded hundreds of songs. Some of the most popular include"Sweet Lorraine," "Nature Boy," "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days ofSummer," "When I Fall in Love," and "Mona Lisa." In Nineteen-Fifty,the American film industry gave him an award for his recording of"Mona Lisa." That song made him famous as a singer.
((CUT TWO: "Mona Lisa"))
By Nineteen-Fifty Six, Nat King Cole was known internationally.He signed an agreement to appear for a lot of money at the SandsHotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nat often performed in places that only admitted white people.Black leaders criticized him. Nat said he attempted to take legalaction against those places but often failed.
Nat earned more money and moved to California. He bought a housein an area where white people lived. At that time, many whiteAmericans did not want to live near blacks. White home owners nearbyprotested the purchase of a house by a black family. Nat and hisfamily refused to leave and lived in the house without problems.
Nat was the first black man to have his own television show. Hisshow began on N-B-C Television in Nineteen-Fifty-Six. N-B-C agreedto support The Nat King Cole Show for a while. It hoped Americancompanies would pay to sell their products on the show. However,major companies were not willing to advertise on a show that had ablack performer. They were concerned that white people in thesouthern part of the United States would not buy their products.Many Americans watched the show, but N-B-C halted production after ayear.
Nat King Cole also acted in movies. The best known one is SaintLouis Blues. He acted the part of the jazz composer W.C. Handy. Healso appeared in a film about himself called The Nat King ColeStory.
In the Nineteen-Fifties, he sang with some of the best knownorchestras of the time. Here Nat King Cole sings "When I Fall inLove" with the Gordon Jenkins orchestra:
((CUT THREE: "When I Fall in Love"))
Nat King Cole was married two times. In Nineteen-Thirty-Six, hemarried a dancer, Nadine Robinson. Their marriage failed. InNineteen-Forty-Eight, he married Maria Ellington. They had threechildren. They also adopted and raised two other children.
Nat King Cole always smoked a lot of cigarettes. He died ofcancer of the lung in February, Nineteen Sixty-Five. He was onlyforty-five years old.Graphic Image
He received many awards during hislife. He also received many more after his death. One was aNineteen-Ninety Grammy Award for lifetime achievement.
Nat's daughter, Natalie followed her father as a singer. Sherecorded many songs after her father died.
In Nineteen-Ninety-One, Natalie Cole recorded an album calledUnforgettable. It contains twenty-two of Nat King Cole's songs,including the song "Unforgettable." Modern technology made itpossible to mix her voice with a recording of her father singing thesame song.
((CUT FOUR: "Unforgettable"))
Millions of Nat King Cole's recordings were sold while he wasalive. And today, people around the world still enjoy listening tothe music of one of America's greatest performers of popular andjazz music.
((CUT FIVE: "Hit the Ramp"))
This Special English Program was written by Yenni Djahidin Growand produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week at this time foranother People in America program on the Voice of America.