Get a glimpse of the voice that built Capitol Records now on Netflix. Released in 2014, Nat King Cole: Afraid of the Dark takes an intimate look at the elegant yet difficult private life behind this voice of gentility. Told in part through his late widow Maria Cole's point of view, the documentary covers Cole's rise in American pop culture in the 40s and 50s, and the racial fallout he quietly faced behind the scenes. What was most surprising was the contrast of Cole's public reception as entertainer and of him as an ordinary citizen. Residents protested when he and his family moved into the affluent neighborhood of Hancock Park even though they were fans of his music and owned his records at home. Similarly in Las Vegas, his sold-out concerts didn't garner enough status for him to enter through the main casino floor or to stay at a good hotel.
America, when I first saw you on television as a child in another country, you were made up of magical things that made me dream -- you produced wonderful movies, you made incredible jazz music, and you were even the first on the moon. I think that we all, from other countries, saw you in this way. It's why we're here. But now living among you, you tell a very different story.
In spite of the heartbreak and the external pressures, Cole's presence, like his voice, remained firm and elegant. The documentary's lens via Maria Cole's POV was especially touching--to hear how she ignored him at first, very gradually fell in love, and finally said an early goodbye from cancer. Cole's story coupled with songs like "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" makes a nostalgic music lover like me want to listen to him again and again while dreaming of when I first heard him decades ago...those thousands of miles beyond the pacific ocean...of a place that I would one day live. And life ahead promised to be wonderful.
Another interesting thing about the film is the mention of how much pressure Cole faced among fellow artists for not taking a stronger stance against inequality. Silent protest is still a form a protest and though Cole wasn't vocal in his time, the fact that his voice is so widely listened to even today is a testament to the extraordinary effect he has had as a human being. George Benson said it best during the film, "It just wasn't his style."
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).