Black History Month: Nat King Cole

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Megumi Kitamoto

Born in 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama, Nat King Cole began his musical career when he began the piano at the age of four. He continued to play the piano for his Baptist church and received classical piano training. However, he was influenced by Earl Hines to become a jazz pianist, and dropped out of school at age 15 to pursue a career in jazz.

Cole then formed the King Cole Trio and released records such as “That Ain’t Right” and “Straighten Up And Fly Right,” which became hits in 1943 and 1944, respectively. He also began performing as a solo act, and released many popular songs such as “Mona Lisa” (1948) and “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” (1963). Despite his success, he encountered racism throughout the Deep South while he was on tour.

His talents were not limited to music.The Nat King Cole Show debuted in 1955 on NBC, making him the first African American to host a television program. He encountered controversy when some believed that he was incapable of the job because of his race. However, the show still remains popular today.

Even after his death in 1965, Cole has left a positive impact on the music and television industries for African American entertainers.