A virtuoso jazz pianist, he is now best remembered for his soft baritone voice, which he used to great effect in both big band and jazz genres. His popularity as a musical artist has never waned in the nearly sixty years since his death in 1964.
If you were to pass me in my car on many afternoons, you might catch me loudly singing any number of his tunes. Or perhaps you’ve been in my office when the Nat King Cole Pandora channel is crooning in the background.
Seven years older than Cole, Romare Bearden was an American artist, author, and songwriter. Much of his early work focused on memories of his life in the South, but also of unity and cooperation within the African American community . By his death, he was regarded, by the New York Times, as
Less known is Bearden’s career as a songwriter. He co-wrote the jazz classic
Richard Yarde dedicated much of his earlier work to the personalities and themes of the African American experience, including large vibrant paintings depicting the jazz world of the Harlem Renaissance. His most famous series was a tribute to the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. The watercolor we are offering captures the image of one of the greats — Billie Holiday — a peer in musical genius to Nat King Cole. As Yarde wrote,
This first two works seem like pretty clear connections to Cole through their emphasis on jazz music. But what does a mezcal cup with a picture of the baseball player Bill Buckner have to do with Nat King Cole? A lot, as it all turns out. Nat King Cole was such an avid baseball fanatic and Dodgers fan that when Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine was being built, he had his choice of box seats. He purposely chose one on the first base side so he could look right into the Dodgers dugout and see what the players and coaches were doing.
Jazz, art, baseball — it all circles back to Nat King Cole Generation Hope, a charity bringing music to children in inner-city schools — founded and led by Nat and Maria’s youngest daughters, twins Timolin and Casey.