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A LETTER WRITTEN THIS YEAR TO NAT KING COLE FROM HIS FRIEND AND MINE, DICK LaPALM:

Tuesday, March 17, NAT KING COLE turns 90! Using the present tense is absolutely fitting. Today, at every hour, cable, the internet, and radio stations around the world continue to play his timeless music. He is, indeed, still very much with us. He still stands out from the rest, and he stands alone. Comparing anyone to Nat Cole is simply impossible.

His career comprised two major areas of activity. From 1936 to 1948 he was an extraordinary jazz pianist, centering a great trio with a fresh sound and his own distinctive style. A thorough craftsman, his playing was to cause a sense of wonderment amongst other pianists. His work has influenced pianists such as Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, etc. His musical talents remain untouched and undimmed by the passing of time.

From 1948 until his death on February 15, 1965, he was a singer, soloing as a husky-smooth baritone, backed by all manner of accompaniments. In his brief lifetime, he had two major careers. He excelled and remained at the top of both of them. No one else in the music business has ever matched this dual achievement. No one.

His accomplishments in these two fields are important for their excellence and exceptional taste. Many of his peers revere his work as a high standard by which to learn and measure themselves.

Fortunately, he bequeathed us an abundance of recordings that allows us to hear of him what we wish, when we wish. One thing of which I'm certain is how blessed we are to have had him among us, albeit too briefly. He was kind. He was gifted. He was thoughtful. He was giving. He was disciplined. He was gracious. He was tuned-in. He had an easy smile, and a devilish grin. He was talented. He was caring. He was professional. He was real. He was my dear friend. He was Nat Cole.

Happy Birthday, Nathaniel.

Dick LaPalm

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