10 Best Nat King Cole Songs of All Time

Nat King Cole, an iconic figure in the realms of jazz and popular music, left an indelible mark on the music industry with his velvety-smooth voice, innate musicality, and elegant charm. Born Nathaniel Adams Coles in 1919, his career spanned several decades, shaping the landscape of jazz and captivating audiences with his timeless hits.

Cole’s distinctive baritone voice, imbued with warmth and sophistication, graced numerous classics such as “Unforgettable,” “Mona Lisa,” and “The Christmas Song.” His seamless phrasing, impeccable timing, and ability to convey emotion through his vocals made him a beloved crooner of his time.

Breaking racial barriers, Nat King Cole became one of the first African-American artists to achieve mainstream success in a predominantly white entertainment industry. His success as a singer, pianist, and trailblazer paved the way for future generations of artists.

Aside from his musical prowess, Cole hosted “The Nat King Cole Show,” making history as the first African-American to host a nationally televised variety show, albeit facing racial challenges during its run.

Nat King Cole’s enduring legacy as a trailblazing musician, captivating performer, and cultural icon continues to inspire and resonate across generations, solidifying his place as one of the most influential figures in the history of music.

1. Unforgettable

“Unforgettable” stands as one of Nat King Cole’s most iconic and enduring songs, released in 1951. This timeless ballad became a signature piece for Cole, renowned for his smooth and velvety voice that exuded warmth and elegance.

Originally written by Irving Gordon, “Unforgettable” embodies the essence of romantic sentimentality and enduring love. Cole’s emotive rendition, accompanied by lush orchestration, captured the hearts of listeners and cemented the song’s status as a classic.

The song’s lyrics evoke a sense of everlasting love and reminiscence, describing a love that remains unforgettable throughout time. Cole’s impeccable phrasing and heartfelt delivery add depth and sincerity, elevating the song to a timeless standard.

“Unforgettable” garnered critical acclaim and became one of Cole’s most beloved hits, earning him multiple awards and accolades. The posthumous duet version featuring his daughter Natalie Cole, released in 1991, further solidified the song’s status, winning multiple Grammys and captivating a new generation of audiences.

The enduring legacy of “Unforgettable” lies in its ability to evoke deep emotions and its timeless portrayal of enduring love, making it an indispensable part of Nat King Cole’s musical heritage.

2. Mona Lisa

“Mona Lisa” is a classic song performed by Nat King Cole, released in 1950. This timeless ballad, written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, became one of Cole’s most iconic and beloved songs.

The song’s lyrics describe the allure and enigmatic beauty of the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa. Nat King Cole’s velvety-smooth voice and expressive delivery bring the song’s lyrics to life, capturing the fascination and mystique of the subject.

With its romantic and nostalgic essence, “Mona Lisa” became an instant hit, resonating deeply with listeners and earning critical acclaim. The song’s emotional depth and Cole’s captivating vocals made it an enduring favorite among audiences.

” Mona Lisa” remains a quintessential part of Nat King Cole’s repertoire, celebrated for its timeless charm and evocative storytelling. Its success has transcended generations, solidifying its place as a classic in the Great American Songbook and a testament to Cole’s artistry as a legendary vocalist.

3. Too Young

“Too Young” is a classic song performed by Nat King Cole, released in 1951. The song was written by Sidney Lippman and Sylvia Dee and became one of Cole’s signature songs. It showcases his smooth and velvety vocal style, making it a timeless piece in the American popular music repertoire.

“Too Young” topped the charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Pop Singles Artist in 1951. The song’s lyrics explore the theme of being too young to experience a deep and lasting love, reflecting the innocence and wistfulness associated with youth.

Nat King Cole’s rendition of “Too Young” is characterized by its lush orchestration and the singer’s heartfelt delivery. The song’s popularity endured over the years, and it remains a classic example of Cole’s ability to convey emotion through his impeccable vocal phrasing.

The enduring appeal of “Too Young” is further evident in its continued presence in various forms of media, covering a wide range of genres. Nat King Cole’s timeless performance continues to captivate audiences, solidifying the song’s status as a classic in the Great American Songbook.

4. Nature Boy

“Nature Boy” is a hauntingly beautiful and enigmatic song originally composed by Eden Ahbez in 1947 and famously performed by Nat King Cole. Released in 1948, Cole’s rendition became a definitive version, capturing the song’s ethereal and mystical essence.

The song’s lyrics tell the tale of a “strange, enchanted boy” who imparts wisdom about the importance of love and the wonders of nature. The mystical and philosophical nature of the lyrics, coupled with Cole’s velvet-smooth voice, creates a mesmerizing and introspective atmosphere.

“Nature Boy” became an instant hit, resonating deeply with audiences due to its poetic storytelling and haunting melody. The song’s universal message about love, compassion, and finding oneself struck a chord with listeners, making it a timeless classic.

Cole’s emotive delivery, accompanied by orchestral arrangements, heightened the song’s emotional impact, solidifying its place in the Great American Songbook. The song’s enduring popularity led to numerous covers by various artists over the years, showcasing its timeless appeal and cultural significance.

“Nature Boy” remains a pivotal piece in Nat King Cole’s repertoire, celebrated for its enchanting melody, evocative lyrics, and the poignant wisdom it imparts, perpetuating its status as a treasured gem in the history of music.

5. Smile

“Smile” is a song originally composed by Charlie Chaplin as an instrumental theme for his 1936 film “Modern Times.” The melody later gained lyrics and became a song. Over the years, it has been covered by numerous artists, including the iconic rendition by Nat King Cole.

Nat King Cole recorded “Smile” in 1954, and his version is one of the most well-known and beloved interpretations of the song. The lyrics were added by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954, giving the instrumental melody a poignant and uplifting message about finding solace and strength in difficult times.

The song’s enduring popularity is partly due to Nat King Cole’s smooth and emotive vocals, which perfectly complement the hopeful and comforting lyrics. “Smile” became one of Cole’s signature songs and remains a classic in the realm of jazz and pop standards.

“Smile” has been covered by various artists across different genres, cementing its status as a timeless composition. The song’s enduring message of finding joy and optimism even in challenging moments has resonated with audiences for decades, making it a cherished piece in the American music landscape.

6. Straighten Up and Fly Right

“Straighten Up and Fly Right” is a classic song written by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills. Nat King Cole first recorded the song with his trio in 1943, and it became one of his early hits. The song’s lyrics use the metaphor of a monkey who figures out how to “straighten up and fly right” as advice for staying on the right path in life.

The catchy and rhythmic nature of “Straighten Up and Fly Right” contributed to its success, and it quickly became a popular and enduring piece in Nat King Cole’s repertoire. The song showcases Cole’s smooth and distinctive vocal style, characterized by his impeccable phrasing and warm delivery.

The success of “Straighten Up and Fly Right” marked an important moment in Nat King Cole’s career, helping to establish him as a prominent figure in the world of popular music. The song’s clever lyrics, combined with Cole’s musicality, made it not only a hit in its time but also a timeless classic that has been covered by various artists over the years.

The song’s popularity endured, and it remains a celebrated example of Nat King Cole’s contributions to jazz and popular music.

7. When I Fall In Love

“When I Fall in Love” is a timeless and romantic ballad recorded by Nat King Cole, released in 1957. Known for its evocative lyrics and Cole’s tender delivery, the song remains an enduring classic that epitomizes the essence of love and romance.

The song captures the emotions and sentiments experienced when falling in love. Its heartfelt lyrics describe the overwhelming feelings of affection and the anticipation of embarking on a journey of love, highlighting the beauty and depth of such an emotional connection.

Nat King Cole’s smooth and velvety voice lends a sense of sincerity and intimacy to the song, resonating with audiences and evoking a deep sense of nostalgia. The orchestral arrangement complements Cole’s vocals, creating a lush and emotive musical backdrop.

“When I Fall in Love” has remained a beloved standard over the years, with numerous renditions by various artists across different genres. It has been featured in films, television shows, and continues to be a popular choice for weddings and romantic occasions, perpetuating its status as a timeless and cherished love song.

8. L-O-V-E

“L-O-V-E” is a classic song that was written by Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler. The song was originally recorded by Nat King Cole in 1964 for his album of the same name, “L-O-V-E.” Nat King Cole’s rendition of the song is particularly well-known and has become a timeless classic.

“L-O-V-E” is characterized by its upbeat and jazzy feel, featuring catchy lyrics that spell out the word “love” and express the joy and happiness associated with it. The song’s arrangement includes a memorable trumpet solo that adds to its lively and celebratory atmosphere.

Nat King Cole’s smooth and velvety vocals perfectly complement the song’s romantic and charming lyrics, making it a favorite for weddings, romantic occasions, and various celebrations. The song’s simple yet effective message of love has contributed to its enduring popularity.

Over the years, “L-O-V-E” has been covered by many artists from various genres, but Nat King Cole’s version remains the most iconic. The song has been featured in numerous films, TV shows, and commercials, further solidifying its status as a beloved and widely recognized classic in the world of popular music.

9. Autumn Leaves

“Autumn Leaves” is a classic jazz standard that has been performed by various artists over the years, including a memorable rendition by Nat King Cole. Originally a French song titled “Les Feuilles Mortes,” the English version, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, became popularized in the 1950s.

Nat King Cole’s rendition of “Autumn Leaves” is characterized by its emotive and melancholic interpretation, perfectly encapsulating the nostalgic and wistful nature of the song. Cole’s smooth vocals and heartfelt delivery evoke the sentiments of lost love and the fleeting beauty of autumn.

The song’s lyrics poignantly describe the changing seasons, using the falling autumn leaves as a metaphor for the passage of time and lost love. The haunting melody, coupled with Cole’s emotive singing, creates an atmosphere of introspection and longing.

“Autumn Leaves” became a beloved classic, appreciated for its emotive depth and timeless beauty. Its poignant lyrics and evocative melody have made it a staple in the repertoire of jazz standards, captivating audiences and musicians alike for generations. Nat King Cole’s rendition remains a definitive and memorable interpretation of this enduring song.

10. Stardust

“Stardust” is a classic song composed by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics written by Mitchell Parish. The song was first recorded in 1927 and has since become one of the most recorded jazz and pop standards, showcasing its enduring appeal and timeless quality.

One of the most famous versions of “Stardust” was recorded by Nat King Cole. His rendition, released in 1957, is considered a definitive and iconic interpretation of the song. Nat King Cole’s smooth and expressive vocals, combined with the lush orchestration, elevated the song to new heights and contributed to its status as a classic.

“Stardust” captures a dreamy and nostalgic atmosphere, with lyrics that evoke a sense of romance and longing. The melody is melodic and enduring, making it a favorite for jazz musicians and vocalists alike.

The song’s popularity has led to numerous covers by artists spanning various genres, including jazz, pop, and country. “Stardust” remains a cherished piece in the Great American Songbook and continues to be celebrated for its beauty, elegance, and timeless quality.

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