Nat King Cole was a jazz pianist, composer, and singer celebrated as an American popular music artist in the 1940s and 1950s.
He was born March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama as one of five children to Edward James Coles, a minister at Beulah Baptist Church in Montgomery, and Perlina Adams Coles, who sang in the choir. He began formal lessons at the age of 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel but also classical music. By age 17, he wrote songs and played jazz piano in his older brother's group.
In 1956, while Cole was participating in the first mixed race performance in Birmingham, Alabama, several white men stormed the stage, injuring him.
Also in 1956, the Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC-TV, the first of its kind hosted by an African-American.
In 1990, Cole was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The United States Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Cole in 1994.
Cole has been inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.