Books: Nat King Cole

By Daniel Mark Epstein

Though his ability to wrap his voice around a romantic lyric arguably ranked him near Elvis, Sinatra and Lady Day, the pop balladeer (and jazz pianist) Nat King Cole is unfortunately perhaps best remembered today as Natalie's dad. Epstein's insightful new book--best read while listening to Cole's rereleased album The Christmas Song--should remedy things. The biographer sometimes digs too deep into esoterica, spending pages analyzing the lyrics of Straighten Up and Fly Right, for example. But when he recounts the singer's personal struggles, including a shocking 1956 onstage kidnapping attempt by Alabama racists, the human drama is, well, unforgettable.

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