If there has ever been a smoother voice than Nat King Cole’s, then I can’t imagine who it would be. Even his contemporaries – for example, Frank Sinatra – gave him full credit, and he was one of the biggest stars in the music world for many years. (And countless teenagers would always remember his velvet crooning as being perfect for “make out” music.)
Ironically, he began as a jazz pianist… not just any ordinary piano player, but a immensely talented and influential one. His early recordings with his trio (the King Cole Trio – no “Nat” in those days) are still treasured by many collectors. However, when he began to deviate more and more into vocals and then – shudder – pop music, jazz purists criticized him unmercifully. In later years he would still touch base with his jazz roots on occasional instrumental recordings, but his vocals are what made him world-famous.
Nat was often in the midst of controversy during his career – if not because of his musical choices, then because of where he lived or where he performed. He was a pioneer in early TV, pushed the envelope in tour locations and where he chose to live, but was often criticized for not pushing even harder. Always though, the quality of his talent was never in doubt. When he died in early 1965 at a too-young 48, his place in musical history was secure.
The temptation in this posting was to feature one of Nat’s biggest hits – a tune that sort of ties in with the book and movie that’s been in the news a lot lately (surely you know what I mean)…but of course, I always try to resist the easy road, so if you want to hear Mona Lisa then you’ll have to go elsewhere.
However, our first choice is one that does play into Nat’s popularity in Europe. He often recorded in other languages by learning the lyrics phonetically, and in this example that alternates between English and French you’ll be hard-pressed to not imagine him as a native of France. It’s called Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup. If the name isn’t familiar, try it anyway – you’ll like it!
Second choice is a sunny love song called That Sunday That Summer.