The Grammy Museum is celebrating the life and career of legendary singer and pianist Nat King Cole with a new exhibit, it was announced Tuesday (Feb. 25).
Entitled “This Is Nat King Cole,” the exhibit — which will bookend Cole’s centennial celebration — is slated to open on March 17, what would have been Cole’s 101st birthday. The singer’s daughters Timolin Cole and Casey Cole will be on hand at the museum’s Clive Davis Theater on opening day to discuss the stories behind the exhibit with moderator Scott Goldman.
Scheduled to run through summer 2020, “This Is Nat King Cole” will offer a retrospective of Cole’s personal and professional life, including his relationship with Capitol Records. Cole died in February 1965 at age 45.
Highlights of the exhibit will include the tuxedo Cole wore during his 1960 visit with Queen Elizabeth and the kimono he was given in Japan the same year; his Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, which he was awarded posthumously in 1990; handwritten letters to his wife Maria Cole; a beaded gown worn by Maria at a 25th anniversary celebration of Cole’s relationship with Capitol Records; and an engraved Tiffany sterling silver box gifted to Cole by activists Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver.
“We are so excited that our father is being honored at the Grammy Museum in celebration of his centennial, and even more special that it is on his birthday,” said Casey and Timolin Cole in a joint statement. “Our hearts are full knowing that after all these years his music lives on in the hearts of so many.”
Added Grammy Museum president Michael Sticka, “Nat King Cole’s legacy as an iconic, American artist is unparalleled, making him an undeniable national treasure. It’s an honor for the Grammy Museum to host this exhibit and celebrate his incredible achievements and musical legacy.”
Born on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama, Cole formed the Nat King Cole Trio in the late 1930s and signed to Capitol Records in 1943. His debut album, The King Cole Trio, topped Billboard’s inaugural album chart the following year. Over the course of his career, he recorded nearly 700 songs for Capitol, 150 of which charted on Billboard’s pop, R&B and country charts — an achievement that led to the iconic Capitol building’s informal designation at “The House That Nat Built.” He has also been noted for his contributions to advancements in racial equality, including the U.S. civil rights movement.
Cole died of lung cancer in February 1965 at the age of 45.