GCSPrank Is Here

For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Friday, February 25, 2005


He died before I was born. His whole career spanned a time when the color of one’s skin meant more than the content of his soul. But Nat sang through that and emerged as a voice that transcends time.

Music was not important to me until I got to college. I don’t remember ever turning on a radio to listen to my “favorite station,” though often I would turn one off to stop the caterwauling. Pisses people off when you do it in public places.

If I had a favorite music it was Christmas songs. The only time of the year when we listened to music in our home was that magical time between Thanksgiving and the day I opened all my gifts. My dad’s LP collection was heavy on crooners, so Bing sang “White Christmas,” Dean sang “Rudolph,” Ella did her “Jingle Bells,” Johnny his “Winter Wonderland” and Nat his incomparable “Christmas Song.”

So when it came time to buy music of my own, I started with the decades that my dad enjoyed. And I discovered Nat “King” Cole in my own way. I bought a tape of his “Greatest Hits,” with songs I had heard before and discovered many more wonderful surprises.

“Mona Lisa” was considered by no less an artiste than Duke Ellington to be “the greatest vocal recording ever made.” Songs like “L-O-V-E,” “Route 66,” “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” “Orange-Colored Sky” and “Send For Me” showed a touch of swing that stayed in your bones. The “choir” arrangements of “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” and “Rambling Rose” had the power and verve I often feel with Southern Gospel music. Nat was a consummate pianist, which he displayed often with no better example than when he and his trio recorded a bouncy “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” which he also wrote.

A close friend of Nat's urged him to record in Spanish and Nat’s three albums of favorites, including songs in Portugese and Italian, were huge best-sellers, his rounded vowels and accented phrasing adding charm to his masterful musicianship. He might be the only American singer of his time whose recordings are still being used in Hollywood, national commercials and regional anuncios far south of the border.

It was in love songs, the quiet ballad from the heart, that Nat excelled. “Tenderly,” “Answer Me,” “Stardust,” “Too Young,” “That Sunday, That Summer,” “Nature Boy,” “Sentimental Reasons,” “Darling Je Vous Aime Beacoup,” “Smile” and “A Blossom Fell,” along with many others, are gems that retain their deep feeling despite the years. “The Very Thought of You” nursed along my first love, “Unforgettable” defined it and “Autumn Leaves” was the paean of its departure.

Nat became the music of my thoughts, the backdrop to my most creative hours. And over the years, his voice and songs have been a faithful companion. He never ages, while I do. Somehow that makes it right.

Coda: Duke Ellington wrote “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Nat’s version strikes the perfect balance between wistfulness and bravado. In the lyrics, he sings:

Thought I’d visit the club,
Got as far as the door,
Awfully different without you,
Don’t get around much anymore.

It was only last year that I realized that Duke was referring to the club’s door, not his door. That probably says more about me than I ever wanted to.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


November 02, 2006 8:34 PM  

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