Nat "King" Cole is best remembered as an extremely popular and influential jazz and pop artist whose career spanned the mid-'30s through the early '60s -- some of his biggest hits include "Mona Lisa" and "Unforgettable" -- but he also made a few appearances in film. As an actor, his most famous role is that of W.C. Handy in St. Louis Blues (1958). The father of pop singer Natalie Cole, he was only 46 when he died of lung cancer.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Stage moniker was created in 1937 when he shortened his first name, added "King" and dropped the "s" off his last name.
- Had his own weekly radio show in 1948.
- Silver-screen debut was in 1953's The Blue Gardenia, where he played himself.
- Was the first black performer to host a network variety show. The groundbreaking program, The Nat "King" Cole Show, was canceled in 1957 due to a lack of sponsorship.
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
- Sold so many songs that Capitol Records was referred to as "the house that Nat built."