Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

It was on Monday, February 15, 1965 when the favored American singer and pianist Nat King Cole fatally succumbed to lung most cancers. He was simply 45 years outdated. His passing can be commemorated later that yr, on November 1 , by a tribute album from a younger man – then a rising star of Motown – who himself would additionally perish prematurely in his mid-40s. His title was Marvin Gaye.

Take heed to A Tribute To The Nice Nat King Cole on Apple Music and Spotify.

Gaye was 26 when he went into Motown’s Hitsville studios in Detroit to pay his musical respects to one among his singing idols. By then, the younger singer had already notched up two US R&B No.1s (“I’ll Be Doggone” and “Ain’t That Peculiar”) in addition to a string of different chart entries. His profession was within the ascendant, and the considering behind recording an album dedicated to songs related to Nat King Cole was not solely to doff his cap to a musician whom he drastically admired, but in addition to point out one other facet of his musical persona and, extra importantly – no less than from Motown’s perspective – achieve a beneficial foothold in America’s profitable supper membership market.

The African-American Frank Sinatra

Although a singer whose musical roots have been deeply embedded in gospel music, in his preferences Gaye gravitated in direction of jazz and, for a very long time, harbored aspirations to be the African-American Frank Sinatra. Initially, Motown’s boss, Berry Gordy, indulged Gaye’s ambition to be a middle-of-the-road entertainer, so long as he lower some hit R&B sides within the course of. A Tribute To The Nice Nat King Cole, then, wasn’t Gaye’s first foray into jazz territory; it was, in truth, the singer’s third try at an MOR album, following After I’m Alone I Cry and Hey Broadway, each collections of requirements launched by Motown in 1964.

Produced by Hal Davis, Marc Gordon, and Harvey Fuqua, Gaye’s Nat King Cole tribute opens with a wonderful cowl of the eden abhez-written “Nature Boy,” Cole’s first document to crossover and prime the US pop charts, in 1948. Bathed in lush orchestration, Gaye’s silky voice, regardless of being completely different in tone and texture from Cole’s, reveals the affect of the Alabama-born singer through its ultra-smooth phrasing.

Cole’s 1950 chart-topper, “Mona Lisa,” can also be faithfully rendered by Gaye, whose voice is framed by the opulent sound of massed strings (Nelson Riddle organized Cole’s unique however, as was Motown’s apply on the time, not one of the personnel or arrangers on Gaye’s album have been listed). In a mellow vein, too, are “Unforgettable,” “Too Younger,” and “Candy Lorraine.” The album takes a left fork down a rustic street on “Ramblin’ Rose,” a revamp of Cole’s 1962 million-selling hit, the place Gaye’s plaintive lead is counterpointed by syrupy background vocals.

A variety of types

Gaye additionally lined some early Cole hits on his tribute. The super-infectious “Straighten Up And Fly Proper,” initially a 1944 US R&B No.1 for Cole’s trio, is reconfigured right into a jaunty Sinatra-style swinger. The identical yr, Cole reached the R&B High 5 with “It’s Solely A Paper Moon,” which Gaye additionally serves up with loads of massive band heft combined with pizzazz. In sharp distinction, a late-night blues really feel imbues “Ship For Me,” Gaye’s finger-clicking midtempo tackle a Cole chart-topper from 1957, whereas his tackle the 1956 B-side “To The Ends Of The Earth” has a Latin-style groove.

Apparently, A Tribute To The Nice Nat King Cole closes with “Calypso Blues,” a lesser-known Capitol single that Cole co-wrote and recorded in 1951. Together with his seraphic voice accompanied solely by pattering congas, Gaye’s model adheres carefully to the lean association of the unique recording.

In his component

Some soul stars from the identical period would have sounded out of their depth protecting Nat King Cole songs in a jazz setting, however Marvin Gaye was in his component. His enthusiasm for the fabric and elegance of music is nearly palpable. Sadly, for him, poor gross sales of the Nat King Cole tribute and, certainly, his two earlier MOR albums (none of which charted) meant that Gaye’s ambition to turn into a {smooth}, refined crooner with a common attraction would in the end be thwarted.

Although largely forgotten now, A Tribute To The Nice Nat King Cole needs to be higher recognized. It affords a tantalizing glimpse of a Marvin Gaye that was a devoted jazz man at coronary heart.

A Tribute To The Nice Nat King Cole may be purchased right here.

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