Before I stopped Flashback Friday and turned it into Funky Friday, I had a few bloggers drop in and offer what I called Guest DJ posts. Today, I’ve brought that concept back as I welcome Susan Leighton to the Process. Susan writes at Woman On The Ledge blog on WordPress, where her humorous posts never fail to make me laugh. Susan has proven to be very knowledgeable about music, as her many comments here attest. So let me get out of the way, and let her tell us about her love for one of the great crooners and trailblazers of the last century…
Unforgettable – The Legacy of Nat King Cole
First of all, I would like to give a big shout out to T. Wayne for letting me be your guest DJ here on A Joyful Process. I hope you don’t mind but I am kicking it old school today. Before John Legend, Chris Brown, Bruno Mars, Usher and others there was Nat King Cole. He was the original smooth crooner. Yes, he was also the father of the late, great, Natalie Cole.
I was introduced to Nat by my father who was a big fan of his music. My parents’ song was “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.” Every time I hear that tune, I think of my Mom and Dad who I hope are dancing up there in heaven. His take on “The Christmas Song” was a staple in my house every holiday season. As a kid, I have vivid memories of my dad singing, “Straighten Up & Fly Right” to me.
Born in Alabama in 1919, Nat moved to Chicago when he was four years old. A budding musician, he fell in love with the keyboard and started formal lessons at 12 years of age. He learned jazz and gospel but also became a classical pianist. Obsessed with jazz, Cole would sneak out of his house to hang out at clubs listening to Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines.
While a teenager, Nat began his career as an entertainer by leading a band in a revival of Eubie Blake’s revue, “Shuffle Along.” When that show failed in Long Beach, CA, Nat decided to hang his hat in the sunny state. After forming the King Cole Swingsters, his trio became entrenched in the Long Beach music scene. Changing the name of his group to The King Cole Trio, Nat signed with Capitol Records in 1943.
From there, Cole’s career took off. In the span of a decade, he gave us such classics as “Mona Lisa,” “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” and “Unforgettable.” It was during this time that Nat made history by becoming the first African-Amerian to host a variety show. After his two-year stint on national television, Nat continued to be a successful recording artist and performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Johnny Mathis. He also lent his celebrity to the Civil Rights movement and was an active and visible participant.
While remaining a high-profile recording artist he managed to squeeze in some movie and television appearances. Around this time, Nat received a cancer diagnosis. After several operations, he finally succumbed to the disease in February 1965 a month before his 46th birthday.
Fortunately for us, his musical legacy lives on. In 1991, his daughter Natalie released her Unforgettable…with Love an album of her father’s songs which turned out to be a huge success winning several awards. A true legend, his swagger and coolness can be seen in many of our modern-day R&B singers.
I really enjoyed this guest post time. Thanks again to T. Wayne! Give a couple of the old standards below a listen. They are definitely timeless classics.
“(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons”:
“Straighten Up & Fly Right”
Thanks again Susan, for being my fifth Guest DJ! Please offer your comments on Susan’s post and her choices below and be sure to take a look at her blog, if you don’t already follow her. I think you’ll like what you find. If you would like to do a guest DJ post, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mindpinball on Twitter. There are no restrictions as to genre, style or type of music you can present; you can pick one or several songs to feature.
Enjoy your day, and as always, thanks for reading and listening.