From the Archives: Nat ‘King’ Cole dies of cancer at 45
nat “king” cole, 45, world-renowned jazz singer and pianist, died in her sleep in st. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica early Monday, three weeks after he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous left lung.
His wife, Maria, who was at his side, “had known for several days that he was dying,” a hospital spokesman said, “but she didn’t want anything to be made public because he was constantly watching TV.”
Aware he had cancer, the singer thought he was on the mend after the removal of his lung, but doctors said the disease had spread out of control.
Only the day before his death, his wife took Cole for a brief ride in his car, and a few days earlier he had briefly visited their children at the family home, an imposing brick mansion at 401 S. muirfield road in the hancock park district.
No visitors were allowed in the hospital room on the sixth floor of Cole. But last week, when comedian Jack Benny was visiting another friend, he asked for Cole, and the singer invited him to chat for 15 minutes.
No interviews were permitted, but due to worldwide interest in the singer’s recovery, Ms. Cole wrote and published her own optimistic statements, as if they had come from him.
the singer’s father, the rev. Edward B. north chicago cabbages, died two weeks ago in chicago.
“we had to tell nat, and i guess it got worse,” his brother eddie said in honolulu. “He loved our dad. we could see it change in that moment.”
mother died in 1955
Cole’s mother, Perlina, died at the age of 61 in Chicago in 1955 of cancer.
Funeral services for the singer have not been completed, but a family spokesman said they will likely be private, at 11 a.m. m. on thursday in st. james episcopal church, 3903 wilshire blvd., run by angelus funeral home.
However, an outpouring from his fans is expected on Wednesday, when the sealed casket will be on public view in the church starting at 3 p.m. until 22:00
The first hint of illness for Cole came late last fall when he was forced to cancel an engagement at the Sands in Las Vegas due to what he described as a “respiratory illness.”
on December 1, the 9th, two days before presenting the inaugural concert of popular music and jazz at the music center, he was taken out into the street. john’s hospital, where x-rays revealed the lung tumor. Cobalt treatments were started.
frank sinatra replaced him with an all-star cast, while “king cole salutes the music center” drew a crowd to the pavilion on december 2. 11.
When the serious nature of Cole’s illness was revealed, he received a deluge of mail, telegrams and calls, more than anyone else at the hospital, which often has celebrity patients.
die in his sleep
Although his condition took a sharp turn for the worse two days ago, Cole was cheerful and alert Sunday, the hospital said. death came silently in his sleep. he was pronounced dead at 5:30 a.m. m.
showbiz was stunned, because mrs. Cole had managed to keep her true condition a secret from the public, and from him.
In addition to his wife, he leaves three daughters, Natalie, 15, and twins Timolin and Casey, 3; two adopted children, Carol, 20, and Nat Kelly, 6; Three brothers, Eddie in Honolulu, Fred in New York City, and Ike in Chicago, and a sister, Miss Evelyn Cole, from Chicago.
closure of the council
mrs. cole has requested that memorial tribute donations be made to the eleanor roosevelt cancer foundation, 219 e. 42nd St., New York City, or the California Institute for Cancer Research at UCLA.
The city council adjourned in Cole’s memory on Monday. The Board of Supervisors ordered the flags of the music center, of which Cole was one of the founders, to be lowered to half mast.
nat cole’s life was filled with extreme financial fluctuations, but in the end he was able to earn $20,000 a week.
born nathaniel adams coles on march 17, 1919 in montgomery, ala., the son of a baptist minister, he was brought to chicago at the age of 4. he dropped the “s” from his name in early entertainment bills.
“Mom was the only music teacher I ever had,” she once said, recalling playing “yes, we don’t have bananas” on a piano when she was 4.
after playing in a high school dance band, he went to california with a revue, “shuffle along”, which went bankrupt in long beach in 1937.
While on the show he married Nadine Robinson, a dancer. they divorced in 1946.
After the magazine closed in 1937, Cole said he “played piano in almost every beer hall from San Diego to Bakersfield” until he got a job with a jazz quartet at Swanee in Hollywood.
the drummer never appeared but the famous nat king cole trio was born.
oscar moore was on the guitar and wesley prince was on the double bass, and they created a style that marked the swing between generations.
Legend has it that a drunken patron once placed a paper hat on the pianist’s head and exclaimed, “Look! king cole!” the name stuck.
and later, another barfly is said to have ordered cole to sing, “sweet lorraine”.
“we don’t sing,” said nat.
‘natural child’ a success
the manager whispered that the man was a big spender, so the satiny voice that was to capture a world of listeners was heard for the first time in public.
cole’s first hit recording was his own “straighten up and fly to the right” in 1943 for liberty records (now capitol), and he was on his way.
His wedding to Maria Ellington, lead singer of Duke Ellington’s band but no relation to the frontman, was a $17,500 social event in 1947, at a time when King was at the height of his recording of the haunting “child of nature”. .”
In 1948, Cole was philosophical about the racial discrimination that haunted him even in the upper-income district. When he and his girlfriend bought their $65,000 Tudor mansion in Hancock Park, a lawyer for the nearby owners said, “We don’t want unsavory people coming here.”
“Me neither,” Cole said, “and if I see someone unsavory come into this neighborhood, I’ll be the first to complain.”
attacked on stage
But in 1951, the government seized the house and charged Cole with $150,000 in back taxes. he set a goal of paying off the debt at $1,000 a week and kept the house.
Two years later, under the pressure of the self-imposed rhythm, he collapsed from acute ulcers and internal bleeding during an Easter concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. surgeons removed half of his stomach.
The singer tried to live at a more leisurely pace after that, but the times brought him back to the headlines when six white men attacked him on stage in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1956 before an audience of 4,000.
Although he gave himself freely at benefit performances for civil rights groups, some complained that he was not militant enough.
“A celebrity can go overboard by talking too much,” he said, “when there should be more action and less talking.”
cole, a personal friend and white house guest of presidents kennedy and johnson, was outspoken on the issue of race. he bemoaned an era that accepted black artists “as a threat to no one,” while black doctors, lawyers, and educators were denied similar recognition.
cole launched a television show that drew tremendous ratings and reviews, but closed in 1957 after 64 weeks because national advertisers would not endorse a black man, he said.
he had a lot of fans
Stayed with it despite financial losses, attracting top “guest” names in entertainment, who agreed to appear well below the price they normally received, in the hope that it would be a success.
Its international following was no less than in the United States. once when then vice president richard m. Nixon faced violent demonstrations in Caracas, Venezuela, Cole followed a few days later and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of 16,000 at the airport.
he garnered similar acclaim in Europe (he played in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth in 1960), the Middle East, and the Far East.
his income was estimated at $500,000 annually and his record sales exceeded 50 million.
A heavy cigarette and pipe smoker, Cole quit smoking for several months last year, but had resumed smoking before he was admitted to the hospital.
among his best-selling records of all time were “mona lisa”, “too young”, “for sentimental reasons”, “pretend”, “answer me my love”, “climbing rose”, “christmas song” and “smile”.
Condolence messages poured in on Monday from big and anonymous for a man they thought best fit their own words.
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