Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole

Will Friedwald. Oxford, $34.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-19-088204-4
In this richly detailed biography, Friedwald (The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums) tells the mesmerizing life story of singer and musician Nat King Cole (1919–1965). Friedwald covers Cole’s early life in Montgomery, Ala., and his move to Chicago, where he dropped out of high school at age 15 to pursue music, and his days in the late 1930s leading the Nat King Cole Trio, which featured Cole as bandleader and pianist—but not a vocalist until 1940, with his first hit “Sweet Lorraine.” Friedwald traces Cole’s solo career and his work with arranger and composer Nelson Riddle in the 1950s (“the first period of his great albums) and spellbindingly demonstrates Cole’s ability to reach across audiences and genres, from jazz to pop, with his 150 hits (including “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Mona Lisa,” and “The Christmas Song”). As Friedwald explains, Cole became a romantic figure as well as role model for African American listeners. Friedwald wonderfully captures Cole and his career with smooth and captivating prose in this definitive biography. (July)
Reviewed on : 06/15/2020
Release date: 05/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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