Nat King Cole
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Christmas Music Playlists with Nat King Cole Songs
You Know It's Time To Wrap Up Like An Eskimo When Nat King Cole Is On The Radio
Factfile - Nat King Cole
- Cole recorded The Christmas Song (aka Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) 4 times over 3 decades. According to Nielsen data, it is the 11th biggest selling Christmas song of the SoundScan era (after 2003).
- Cole's only holiday lp, The Magic of Christmas (1960), has sold over 6 million copies and was the biggest selling Christmas album of the 60's.
- 7 holiday numbers were featured on The Nat King Cole Show (Nov 1956 - Dec 1957).
Think Nat King Cole, think Christmas and you're more than likely going to think of 'The Christmas Song'. But to leave it at that would be to miss many more festive treasures that the golden voiced crooner had to his name. Cole started out as a much heralded pianist but it was his baritone voice that he is best remembered for today. What is most surprising about Nat's discography, given how closely associated he is with the Christmas season, is that it only contains one true Christmas album.
Such was Cole's love affair with the Mel Tormé/Bob Wells written tune that he recorded it on 4 different occasions over 3 decades (from 1946 to 1961) and on each occasion he added new subtleties to the mix. The recording that we know today was his final rendition in 1961 when ‘The Christmas Song’ was given the stereo treatment for the very first time. As well as 'The Christmas Song' Cole recorded 3 Christmas singles in the 1950's. 'Frosty The Snowman', backed up by 'Little Christmas Tree', came out in 1950. 3 years later the much less well known 'The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot' was released with 'Mrs Santa Claus' as its B-side. His delightfully turned out 1959 Christmas single 'Buon Natale' (‘Merry Christmas To You’) has again been almost forgotten which is a shame because it has wonderfully carefree attitude, almost Dean Martin in nature. The single’s b-side was a kiddie friendly singalong 'The Happiest Christmas Tree'. Neither track made the cut for Cole’s ‘The Magic of Christmas’ but were later released on a 1970 compilation called ‘The Magic of Christmas With Children’.
Cole’s only Christmas LP arrived in 1960 and was called 'The Magic of Christmas'. It was an album of traditional values and traditional songs making it the quintessential traditional Christmas release. Each of its 14 tracks are well known and have become Christmas staples apart from perhaps 'Caroling, Caroling' and 'A Cradle in Bethlehem'. Nat King Cole's warm fireside vocals and Ralph Carmichael's sumptuous orchestral tidings make for an unforgettable seasonal listen, something that engenders the ghost of Christmas past each time you hear it. 'The Magic of Christmas's initial released in 1960 did not include 'The Christmas Song' but things were righted when it was re-released in 1963 with 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' dropped from the album as a consequence. As part of this reissue the album was retitled 'The Christmas Song' and new cover artwork was added. Such was Cole's popularity that the album was to become the biggest selling Christmas album of the 1960's.
Nat King Cole hosted his own TV show 'The Nat King Cole Show' which ran for 13 months between November 1956 and December 1957. In the process he became the first black man to do so. Luckily for us the timing of the run meant it took in two Christmases which gave plenty of opportunity for Nat to do his festive thing. The first Christmas song he recorded for the show was 'Take Me Back to Toyland', a lounge lizard of a tune, which appeared on the episode shown on the 17th December 1956. The following week's show was awash with Christmas efforts like 'Mrs Santa Claus', 'Jingle Bells', 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' and of course 'The Christmas Song' with Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra providing the elegant backdrop. Both of Cole's daughters, Natalie and Carol, appeared with the singer as the show came to a close. A year later and on the last ever Nat King Cole show the crooner once again paid his respects to his most famous song with Nelson Riddle's Orchestra again providing the orchestral embellishment.
'The Christmas Song' by Nat King Cole, is not only a masterful performance; to me it just sounds like the holidays.
Harry Connick, Jr.
I've never sung it, because Nat's version is so perfect.
Nat King Cole Christmas Album & Single Covers