This Is Nat King Cole will offer a retrospective of Cole’s career, his most significant professional accomplishments, his relationship with Capitol Records, as well as, a glimpse into his personal life through handwritten letters to his wife and family, among other items. The masterful pianist and vocalist’s initial focus was jazz, having formed the Nat King Cole Trio while in the late ’30s. Cole was signed to Capitol Records in 1943 and released his debut album, The King Cole Trio, a year later at the dawn of the LP format. The album topped Billboard’s inaugural album chart.
He went on to record nearly 700 songs for Capitol, including 150 singles that charted on Billboard’s Pop, R&B and Country charts. That phenomenal success led to Capitol’s iconic round building on Vine Street in Hollywood to be informally known as “The House That Nat Built.” Along with his trailblazing music career, Cole is recognized for his contributions to the struggle for racial equality. This Is Nat King Cole will take a look at Cole as an essential figure in several sociopolitical advancements, including the U.S. civil rights movement.
We are so excited that our father is being honored at the GRAMMY Museum in celebration of his centennial, and even more special that it is on his birthday. Our hearts are full knowing that after all these years his music lives on in the hearts of so many– Nat King Cole’s daughters, Casey and Timolin
This exhibit captures the arc of Cole’s professional and personal life as a study of success despite adversity, and the triumph of civility, respect and talent married with political, cultural and business savvy.
Exhibit highlights include:
- Berry Gordy’s $800 loan contract (facsimile) used to start the Motown record label
- Tuxedo worn by Cole during his 1960 visit with Queen Elizabeth II
- Kimono given to Cole during a 1960 visit to Japan
- Cole’s Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded posthumously in 1990
- A collection of handwritten letters to Cole’s wife, Maria, written between 1948 and 1956
- Beaded gown worn by Maria Cole at a celebration of Nat’s 25 years with Capitol Records
- A Tiffany sterling silver box from activists Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver gifted to Cole and engraved “Nat King Cole, The Best Friend A Song Ever Had”