• SumoMe

Nat King Cole

“Nature Boy”

On this day in 1948, Nat King Cole recorded “Nature Boy,” which remained a #1 song on the charts for two months. Cole was born in Alabama, but grew up in Chicago. His introduction to music came in the form of classical piano works, his favorites being Bach and Rachmaninoff. From there, he used his classically-trained ear to play jazz, gospel, and big band music.

Throughout his life, despite enjoying huge success, he fought against rampant racism. In 1956, he was assaulted on stage during a concert in Birmingham, Alabama by three members of the North Alabama White Citizens Council, who apparently were attempting to kidnap him. The three male attackers ran down the aisles of the auditorium towards Cole and his band. Although local law enforcement quickly ended the invasion of the stage, the ensuing fight knocked Cole from his piano bench and injured his back. Cole did not finish the concert and never again performed in the South.

Cole, who smoked three packs of Kool cigarettes a day (which he credited for his smooth voice), eventually died of lung cancer at age 46. Posthumously, Cole was awarded a Grammy for lifetime achievement in music, inducted into multiple jazz hall of fame locations, and in 1991 had a 349-song lifetime compilation released. Cole was one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, and his legacy as a musical giant continues to this day.