Friday Favorites 8/10/2012
It has been a musical week here on Bud’s Blog so why not for Friday Favorites, too? If you’ve seen seen the movie, Ray, you know that Ray Charles was a pioneer in the world of soul music and one of the first African-American artists to achieve crossover success with white audiences. But before Ray, there was Nat “King” Cole. Although he is largely remembered for his rich, baritone voice, he was a trend-setting jazz pianist whose Nat King Cole Trio lineup of piano, guitar, and bass became a popular setup for jazz trios. Cole would sometimes sing between his trio’s instrumental numbers and gradually, when people began to request more vocal numbers, Cole obliged. In 1943, a year before I was born, Cole had his first mainstream vocal hit with Straighten Up and Fly Right, a performance said to foreshadow the first rock and roll records. In 1946, the 15-minute radio show, King Cole Trio Time, became the first radio show sponsored by a black performer. After a string of hits including The Christmas Song, Mona Lisa and his iconic hit, Unforgettable, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC TV, the first television show hosted by an African American. The show was quite controversial at the time and eventually was cancelled for lack of a national sponsor, about which Cole said, Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark. He fought racism all his life and died in 1965 from lung cancer due to his three-pack a day smoking habit, which he believed gave his voice its rich sound. When I remember the singers I’ve heard in my sixty-eight years, one of the most unique voices was that of Nat “King” Cole.
It would be easy to pick his most famous hit, Unforgettable, as my Friday Favorite, particularly since his daughter Natalie’s overdubbed duet version was selected by my daughter, Amy, for the father-daughter dance at her wedding. But I’ve always loved his last hit, That Sunday, That Summer, which reached #12 on the charts in 1963. I would have been a freshman in college, and yes, even then I was a romantic, listening to cornball romantic ballads. These days, it reminds me of my Best Day Ever, the day 46 years ago that Muri took my fraternity pin and I knew she was mine.