Our Top 10 Nat King Cole Songs list will feature one of music’s most prolific singers. He broke the color barriers in music. He is a jazz pianist as well as an actor. He has recorded over 100 songs that have made it on the Pop charts. He was at the top of the charts year after year. He was the first African American man to host a radio show and a TV show. He has basically done it all in the industry. He has sold millions of records during his time in the music business. Some of his hits include “Mona Lisa,” “The Christmas Song,” “Rambling Rose,” “Unforgettable,” “Sweet Lorraine” as well as others. He sold over 50 million albums during his career. Let’s get to know Nat King Cole a little better.
Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965. He dropped out of school at 15 so he could pursue a singing career. He went on to sing with a group called The King Cole Trio. They performed in nightclubs and bars. They also recorded songs for small labels. He released his first single “Sweet Lorraine” in 1940. It was his first hit single. He released several albums with the King Cole Trio. They had numerous hit singles while they were together. Some of their hits include “Sweet Lorraine,” “Embraceable You,” “The Man I Love,” “If I Had You” as well as other hits.
Nat King Cole pursued a solo career by the 1950s. He released his first album Nat King Cole at the Piano in 1950. It features the singles “Three Little Words,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” “ Poor Butterfly,” “How High the Moon,” “I’ll Never Be the Same” and “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You).” In 1950, he released Harvest of Hits. The album features the singles “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66,” “Lush Life,” “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You,” “The Frim Fram Sauce” and “Nature Boy.”
Nat King Cole released Penthouse Serenade in 1952. The album was a return to his instrumental roots. It didn’t feature much singing from him. It features the singles “Somebody Loves Me,” “If I Should Lose You,” “It Could Happen to You,” “Don’t Blame Me” and “Too Young.” Top Pops was released in 1952. It features the singles “Faith Can Move Mountains,” “Somewhere Along the Way,” “Because You’re Mine” and “A Weaver of Dreams.”
The singer released Nat King Cole Sings for Two in Love in 1953. It features the singles “Love Is Here to Stay,” “This Can’t Be Love,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” “Autumn Leaves” and “There Goes My Heart.” He released Unforgettable in 1954. It features the singles “Unforgettable,” “What’ll I Do,” “Mona Lisa,” “Answer Me, My Love” and “Too Young.” Cole released After Midnight in 1957. The album peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Just You, Just Me,” “Sometimes I’m Happy,” “Caravan” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”
The hitmaker released Just One of Those Things in 1957. The album peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Just One of Those Things,” “Who’s Sorry Now,” “When You’re Lover Has Gone,” “A Cottage For Sale,” “I Understand” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Love Is the Thing was released in 1957. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Stardust,” “At Last,” “When I Fall In Love,” “It’s All in the Game” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” The album went on to sell over a million copies.
Nat King Cole released three Spanish albums during his career. He released Cole Espanol (1958), A Mis Amigos (1959) and More Cole Espanol (1962). He released St. Louis Blues in 1958. It was the soundtrack to the film of the same name. Nat King Cole starred in the movie. The album peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Beale Street Blues,” “Careless Love,” “Memphis Blues,” “Yellow Dog Blues” and “St. Louis Blues.” He released The Very Thought of You in 1958. The project peaked at number 17 on the Top LP charts. It features the singles “The Very Thought of You,” “But Beautiful,” “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store)” and “Paradise.”
The singer released Welcome to the Club in 1959. It features the singles “Mood Indigo,” “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and “Avalon.” Tell Me All About Yourself was released in 1960. It peaked at number 33 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Until the Real Thing Comes Along,” “The Best Thing for You (Would Be Me),” “For You” and “(I Would Do) Anything for You.” Wild Is Love was released in 1960. It peaked at number 44 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Wild Is Love,” “It’s a Beautiful Evening,” “Beggar for the Blues,” “Stay With It” and “In Love Again.”
Like most artists, Nat King Cole released a Christmas album. He had already had a successful Christmas single “The Christmas Song” in 1946, but it wasn’t featured on an album. He released The Magic of Christmas in 1960. It reached number one on the Christmas albums chart. The album sold over six million copies. The Touch of Your Lips was released in 1961. It features the singles “The Touch of Your Lips,” “I Remember You,” “Illusion” and “Only Forever.”
Ramblin’ Rose was released in 1962. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 charts. The album remained on the charts for more than a year. It features the singles “Ramblin’ Rose,” “Wolverton Mountain,” “Twilight on the Trail,” “He’ll Have to Go,” “When You’re Smiling,” “You’re Cheatin’ Heart” and “Skip to My Lou.” The album sold over 500,000 copies. Cole released Dear Lonely Hearts in 1962. It reached number 24 on the Billboard 200 charts. The album features the singles “Miss You,” “Near You,” “Oh, How I Miss You Tonight” and “All by Myself.” He released several albums throughout the rest of his career.
Nat King Cole was a trailblazer in music. He broke down the color lines in a world filled with segregation. He was able to overcome the racism he faced and create masterpieces. He opened doors for other African American artists to be able to perform and be successful in mainstream music. From a musical standpoint, he had a voice that became legendary like singers such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday etc, yet he was also in the same league as pianist as the greats such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and so forth. A legendary artist was usually either a vocalist or a player, Nat King Cole was both. Although, his success as a vocalist would eventually overshadow his brilliant piano playing with the general public. This Top 10 Nat King Cole Songs list only touches on a very small percentage of his music. We hope it inspires you to check out his massive catalogue of music.
# 10 – Because You’re Mine
The first song on our Top 10 Nat King Cole Songs list is “Because You’re Mine” from the soundtrack of the same name. The song has a jazz sound. The refreshing ballad is a love song from the movie. The lyrics are gorgeous and don’t just have to be about the movie. They could be about relationships. The lyrics are significant and relevant considering the song was written many years ago.
The song is sweet and mellow. It will put you in a relaxing mood. The melodies are smooth and suave. The piano sounds amazing and exquisite. The orchestral swell is breathtaking and gives the song its jazzy feel. It sounds like a song that belongs in big band music. Cole’s voice is melodious and passionate. He sounds smooth as silk. He sang every lyric with feeling. His phrasing is phenomenal. He sings every line clearly so it’s not a challenge to figure out what he’s saying. It’s hard to believe it’s a cover song because he manages to own it. He made the song his own.
# 9 – Smile
The next song on our Top 10 Nat King Cole Songs list is “Smile” from the album Ballads of the Day. The song has a jazz sound to it. The optimistic song is about things getting better if you smile. It has a positive message for anyone going through terrible times. The song is perfect to listen to if you want to pick yourself up after going through a terrible time in your life. The music is melodic without sounding melancholy. The theme of the song might have required somber music, but it’s uplifting. It has an orchestral swell that gives the song a soothing feel to it.
The musical pause will give the listeners a chance to enjoy the melodious tune. His soulful vocals will touch your heart. You can’t help smiling while listening to him sing the song. He is convincing when he is letting the listener know that they will get through the terrible times. He sells the song so well that you truly believe things will get better. There were a lot of covers for this beautiful song and it’s not hard to understand why that’s the case.
# 8 – Send For Me
The touching song is from The Nat King Cole Story album. It has a pop and jazz beat to it. The emotional song is about him telling the person he loves that if they need him, he will be there. The song could be to a lover or a friend. It has different interpretations to it. The track has a jazzy piano beat. The saxophone gives it a bluesy sound. The song has just enough tempo to get you moving. This is a stray away from his ballads. It was a nice change because he was able to show versatility in his music. He didn’t have to stick to just singing ballads.
This bouncy track is sure to get you moving. The musical arrangement is outstanding. It has a musical pause, which will give the listeners a chance to sit back and enjoy the musicians playing their instruments. His vocals are elegant and timeless. If you weren’t a fan of his vocals, this song will change your mind. His soothing words will charm even the most skeptical of fans. His phrasing is fantastic and flawless.
# 7 – Answer Me, My Love
The somber song is from the Unforgettable album. The song has a jazz beat to it. The yearning song is about asking God why he lost his love. He’s asking questions about why he no longer has his lover in his life. The lyrics are tender and moving. It’s tough to understand why someone breaks up with you and this song covers that subject very well. The music begins with the soothing violin. It starts off in a haunting way. The string section gives the song the somber feel and matches the theme. The string section is the main attraction of the music.
The musical arrangement is magnificent. The orchestra section is dramatic and creates the perfect atmosphere for the type of theme used for the song. The music will put you in a relaxing mood. Cole’s vocals are beautiful and soothing. His voice will make you forget about everything else. He can manage to make you feel emotional while he’s singing each lyric. He is so convincing while he’s singing the lyrics. He proves that he can touch your soul. He can sing songs about love just as convincing as he can about heartbreak.
# 6 – Sweet Lorraine
The “sweet” song is from the Nat King Cole Sings for Two in Love album. The track has a jazz and standard sound. The enchanting song is about a man discussing how he fell in love with his “Sweet Lorraine.” This song was a transition for Cole. He was mostly a pianist until he recorded this track. This is the song that helped him gravitate towards being a vocalist. The jazzy piano sells this sleek and soulful song. The piano has a lot of poise and elegance.
There is a jazz guitar and piano break that’s’ not to be missed. It is masterful and worth a listen. The music is excellent for slow dancing. His vocals are compelling. His rich voice is out of this world. He sounds a little like Louie Armstrong in the song. Cole is not the original singer of the song, but he managed to make it his own. It’s hard to imagine anyone else singing this excellent song.
# 5 – Too Young
The next song on our Top 10 Nat King Cole Songs list is “Too Young” from the Unforgettable album. The song has a jazz beat to it. The loving song is about a young couple who are told they are too young to be in love. They are determined to prove that they aren’t “too young” to be in love. This is a timeless theme because young couples still go through this today. If the music weren’t from a different era, it could have been released now. It starts off with the violin section and it reels you as soon as it starts. The music is breathtaking.
The jazzy piano also reels you in and entices the listener to continue to listen to the music. The music is hypnotic and captivating. It will hold your attention right up to the end of the track. Speaking of holding your attention, let’s get to those amazing vocals. Nat King Cole takes the listeners on a musical journey and the ride is worth the trip. His voice sounds harmonious and enchanting. He proves he could sing the alphabet and make it sound very good.
# 4 – Ramblin’ Rose
The sentimental song is from the album of the same name. It has a country and folk sound to it. The heartbreaking song is about a lost love. He’s singing about a couple that no longer acknowledges their partner. The song resonates well today because couples tend to ignore their former lovers when their relationships end. The music is mellow and a perfect choice for this heartbreaking song.
The music doesn’t sound like a typical country track. It doesn’t have the twang of the guitars the way other country songs do. The orchestral swell gives the song a standard and classical sound. It sounds like something that would be featured in a movie from that era. The music is dated, but it would be good to hear when you want to relax. Cole’s voice is majestic and the epitome of classy. He was a heavy smoker when he recorded so it’s amazing that you can’t hear it in his voice. The background singers sound angelic while they support him. They sound like a choir.
# 3 – When I Fall in Love
The pretty song is from the Love Is the Thing album. The song was also featured in the movie Istanbul. It has a jazz beat to it. The gorgeous song is about hoping that real love still exists. He wants the love he finds to last forever. The song is perfect for people who want to fall in love. The song was released decades ago, but the message is still relevant now. The music has incredible orchestration. The arrangement is phenomenal.
The music is just as good as the lyrics. It sounds classic and timeless. The string section is fire and really sells the track. There aren’t enough words to express how magical Cole’s vocals are in this song. His wonderful voice has clear diction and elegance. His phrasing is flawless. He sounds like he’s pouring his heart out to the woman he loves. He makes the listener believe that he truly wants to find real love and make it last. With a voice like this, there’s no way for him not to find a love that will last.
# 2 – Unforgettable
The romantic song is from the album of the same name. It has a pop and r&b sound. The sincere love song is about love being “unforgettable.” The song could be about a couple or a parent’s love for a child. It’s up to the listener to interpret the meaning behind the song. The music is tender and sweet to match the theme of the song. The string section stands out the most in the track. It gives the song the edge it needs to stand out. You can get hypnotized listening to the instrumentalists playing on the track. Nat King Cole’s vocals are superb as usual. He sings the song effortlessly.
His voice is silky and velvety. He wants the world to take notice of his impeccable phrasing and there’s no way not to do it. He sounds charming and confident as he sings each line. There is another version of the song with his daughter Natalie Cole. He is virtually added to her version to make it sound like a duet. That version is just as good as the version he sings alone. This song could have been number one on our list, but unfortunately it lost the coin toss.
# 1 – Mona Lisa
The number one song on our Top 10 Nat King Cole Songs list is “Mona Lisa” from the Unforgettable album. It has a traditional pop sound to it. The metaphoric song is about the woman in the famous Leonardo Da Vinci painting. This song is the track that catapulted him into a romantic balladeer. It also helped him become a mainstream entertainer. He was no longer just an African American jazz singer. He finally became a singer. The lush string section dominates the music. It has gentle guitar riffs that are impressive. The bass line compliments the music effortlessly.
Cole’s piano playing is absolutely genius. His voice sounds cool as ice. His vocals are pure gold on the track. His phrasing is outstanding. He does little runs when he sings the verses. His voice is magical. He holds a little note at the end of the song that’s not to be missed. This is one of his biggest hit songs and it’s easy to see why that happened. It’s one of his signature songs and he nailed it. It was number one on the charts and it deserved to be number one on our list.
Top 10 Nat King Cole Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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