Nat "King" Cole, Jack Palance, and Gig Young
@ National Portrait Gallery
DescriptionNat "King" Cole first made his name in pop music primarily as a pianist with the King Cole jazz trio that he formed in 1939, and some experts think that his most significant contribution to music was a keyboard technique that influenced a number of other noted musicians. But by 1950, the public at large was coming to know Cole as the crooner whose relaxed manner went hand-in-glove with his caressing voice. As hits such as "Mona Lisa" and "Unforgettable" followed one another, he became one of America's favorite entertainers, and in the fall of 1956, he was the first African American to host a network television show. Cole was sometimes faulted for not being more outspoken in the civil rights cause, but his broad popular appeal was in itself a contribution to the struggle against racism.
Gelatin Silver Print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ronald B. Avery