DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Nat King Cole (aged 45)
American singer and jazz pianist
Nathaniel Adams Cole (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American jazz pianist and vocalist. He recorded over one hundred songs that became hits on the pop charts. His trio was the model for small jazz ensembles that followed. Cole also acted in films and on television and performed on Broadway. He was the first black man to host an American television series.
DEATH: Cole entered St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monicaon December 7, and cobalt therapy was started on December 10. Frank Sinatra performed in Cole’s place at the grand opening of the new Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Centeron December 12. Cole’s condition gradually worsened, but he was released from the hospital over the New Year’s period. At home Cole was able to see the hundreds of thousands of cards and letters that had been sent after news of his illness was made public. Cole returned to the hospital in early January. He also sent $5,000 (US$40,392 in 2018 dollars) to Hutton, who later telephoned Maria and implored her to divorce him. Maria confronted her husband, and Cole finally broke off the relationship with Hutton. Cole’s illness reconciled him with his wife, and he vowed that if he recovered he would go on television to urge people to stop smoking. On January 25, Cole’s entire left lung was surgically removed. His father died of heart problems on February 1.Throughout Cole’s illness his publicists promoted the idea that he would soon be well and working, despite the private knowledge of his terminal condition. Billboard magazine reported that “Nat King Cole has successfully come through a serious operation and … the future looks bright for ‘the master’ to resume his career again.” On Valentine’s Day, Cole and his wife briefly left St. John’s to drive by the sea. He died at the hospital early in the morning of February 15, 1965, aged 45.
Cole’s funeral was held on February 18 at St. James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles; 400 people were present, and thousands gathered outside the church. Hundreds of members of the public had filed past the coffin the day before. Honorary pallbearers included Robert F. Kennedy, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Mathis, George Burns, Danny Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Alan Livingston, Frankie Laine, Steve Allen, and Pat Brown (the governor of California). The eulogy was delivered by Jack Benny, who said that “Nat Cole was a man who gave so much and still had so much to give. He gave it in song, in friendship to his fellow man, devotion to his family. He was a star, a tremendous success as an entertainer, an institution. But he was an even greater success as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a friend.” Cole’s remains were interred in Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale, California.