Magazine article The Crisis

Unforgettable: Nat King Cole's Centennial

Magazine article The Crisis

Unforgettable: Nat King Cole's Centennial

Article excerpt

Nat King Cole was a hero to me. When I was 6 years old, I first heard Nat's music. I listened to my mother's records of Nat King Cole and I remember feeling the power of his music. The first songs that I heard were Nature Boy and Pick Yourself Up. The warm sound of Nat King Cole's voice gave me the feeling of my mother's greens and hot water corn-bread.

Then, and even still now, I felt like Nat was talking to me. To quote the lyric from Pick Yourself Up, he was saying, "You'll be a man, my son." In the absence of my father, hearing those words and hearing all of the, quite frankly, fatherly advice that Nat King Cole had on his records was really a powerful thing for me.

I listened to Nat's music at different points in my life and used it as self-medication for whatever I was going through. It lifted my spirits. The loneliness of the first few weeks of college, when my mother passed away my third year in college, when I injured my shoulder and wasn't able to play football anymore, when I broke up with a girlfriend, Nat had a song. He had the energy- and spirit-lifting music that could take you out of the feeling that you were in, or gave you a bit of escapism to handle whatever situation you were going through. The music still has that for me.

We think of Nat's music in a particular way. But I think that his style, his image and eloquence, his grace, his undeniable genius shattered, tore down, kicked down many doors that disallowed Black people to live the type of freedom that they wanted to. …

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