Courtesy Iconic Artsts Group – Nat ‘King’ Cole
The groundbreaking legacy of Nat King Cole, an historic artist who charted more than 150 singles across genres and was the first Black American to host a weekly network TV program, will be preserved and amplified in a landmark agreement between the late musician’s family and Irving Azoff’s Iconic Artists Group.
The deal encompasses a broad range of rights from Cole’s legendary career including his recorded music, publishing, television shows, and name and likeness.
Cole, who died of lung cancer in 1965, transcended the boundaries of race, age, gender, and musical genres, which drove the success of more than 150 singles across Billboard’s pop, R&B, and country charts, selling more than 50 million records worldwide.
A renowned singer and jazz pianist, Cole is remembered for classics including “The Very Thought of You,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Unforgettable,” “Nature Boy,” “Stardust,” “When I Fall In Love,” “Mona Lisa,” “L-O-V-E,” and the holiday staple, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).”
Subjected to all the barriers of the Jim Crow era, Cole’s extraordinary success helped advance Black Americans’ role in media and, while he never considered himself an activist, he directly challenged segregation and contributed to the Civil Rights Movement by bringing people together through his music.
In 1946, a 15-minute national radio program, “King Cole Trio Time,” was broadcast and was the first of its kind to be hosted by a Black musician. In 1956, he became the first Black entertainer to host a national network variety television show, NBC’s “Nat King Cole Show.” Cole was also a featured actor in films including China Gate (1957), St. Louis Blues (1958), and Cat Ballou (1965).
Cole’s remarkable catalog has garnered six platinum and two gold album awards, and six-times RIAA-platinum certified “The Christmas Song.” In 1959, he won the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a “Top 40” Artist for “Midnight Flyer” and, in 1963, was honored with a special achievement Golden Globe award. He was posthumously honored with the lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Ray Charles in 2000 as an Early Influencer.
“We’re delighted to entrust our father’s legacy to Irving Azoff and the team at Iconic. Through the years, it’s been amazing to see how dad’s music continues to inspire and bring people together, and with Iconic at the helm, we know his musical legacy will endure and continue to grow,” said Timolin and Casey Cole in a joint statement.
“We are thrilled that Nat King Cole’s family is trusting us with his musical legacy. He was a groundbreaking artist that influenced generations of artists that followed him. One of our true greats – his voice is instantly recognizable and an enduring piece of the fabric of our lives,” said Irving Azoff, Chairman and CEO of The Azoff Company (Azoff is also a co-founder of Oak View Group, Pollstar’s parent company).
One of the most identifiable and memorable voices known for his signature baritone and perfect pitch, Cole pushed music in a new direction and paved the way for other artists. Starting his career as a celebrated jazz and classical piano prodigy, Cole signed to Capitol Records in 1943 and released his initial album as the lead vocalist of The King Cole Trio in 1945, which topped Billboard’s inaugural album chart. Cole’s phenomenal success led to the construction of the landmark Capitol Records Tower on Vine Street in Hollywood known as “The House That Nat Built.”
“Nat King Cole is undoubtedly one of the most popular and influential entertainers of all time, a true trailblazer, both musically and culturally. Iconic is proud to be the new home of Nat King Cole and we look forward to working closely with his family as well as Universal Music Group and his label, Capitol Records to ensure that his incomparable talent continues to be celebrated around the world,” said Jimmy Edwards, President, Iconic.
More than managing artists’ music catalogues, Iconic acts as a guardian for intellectual property to maximize the value of assets and brands. Among the artists represented by Iconic are The Beach Boys, David Crosby and Linda Ronstadt.