Born on March 17, 1919, Nat King Cole was one of the world’s greatest jazz pianists and vocalists, as well as a pioneer for equality. Cole grew up in Chicago, the son of a Baptist minister. His father’s occupation accounted for one memorable feature of Cole’s singing: enunciation. At four years old, Cole started to learn the piano by ear from his mother, and at 15, he decided to leave school to pursue a career as a jazz musician.
In 1939, the musician formed a trio with Oscar Moore on guitar and Wesley Prince on bass. Gradually, Cole would emerge as a singer as well as a pianist. By 1948, he was already well on his way to becoming one of the most popular vocalists of the day. Invitations for acting roles soon followed. But his success did not mean that Cole didn’t endure racial discrimination. Significantly, he became the first African-American television presenter in 1956.
Sadly, Nat King Cole passed away in 1965 at the young age of 45 due to throat cancer. From ‘Unforgettable’ to 'Stardust,’ Cole left a slew of timeless hits, 16 of which we share in the playlist below.