Google+ Followers

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Maria Cole born 1 August 1922

Maria Hawkins Cole (August 1, 1922 – July 10, 2012) was the widow of singer Nat King Cole and mother of singer Natalie Cole. She was also a jazz singer who worked most notably with Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
Maria Cole was born on August 1, 1922 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA as Marie Frances Hawkins. At a young age she and a sister moved to North Carolina to live with an aunt soon after her mother died in childbirth. She took voice and piano lessons as a child, and after graduating in 1938 from the Palmer Memorial Institute, she returned to Boston and sang with a jazz orchestra.
She soon moved to New York to pursue a music career with jazz great Benny Carter's band. In 1943, she married Spurgeon Ellington, a Tuskegee Airmen flyer during World War II. He was killed in Georgia two years later during a routine post-war training flight.
After performing briefly with Count Basie, Maria’s big break came when Duke Ellington signed her as a vocalist. She stayed with him until 1946, when she broke away to work as a solo singer at Club Zanzibar as a curtain-raiser for The Mills Brothers. ( Duke Ellington with his three female singers, ca 1945. Left to right, Joya Sherrill, Kay Davis, Maria Hawkins Ellington)

Nat Cole, who had divorced his first wife that year, was also on the bill with his jazz trio. The couple married on Easter Day 1948 at a lavish ceremony in Harlem. Cole was already a national star, having had his first hit five years earlier with his song Straighten Up And Fly Right.
But when the newly-weds bought a mansion in the fashionable all-white Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, other local residents staged a protest about the property being sold to a black couple. A Supreme Court ruling that covenants barring racial groups from owning property were legally unenforceable meant that the Coles could keep the house. The couple had five children, two of which they adopted.
Although the property was seized by the US government in 1951 for alleged non-payment of income tax, the claim was settled and the couple and their children continued to live there.
In 1950 Maria Cole resumed her singing career, recording several songs with her husband for Capitol Records, and the couple travelled widely in Europe, Nat Cole making regular stage and television appearances in Britain as well as at leading venues across the United States.

After her husband's death in 1965, Cole created the Cole Cancer Foundation and was active in charity work. She also produced James Baldwin's play Amen Corner on Broadway in 1965, a project that her husband had encouraged before his death. She spent many years in New England. She lived in a large remote house but moved into a condo in Boston's Ritz Hotel after her children were grown. Later, she sought larger quarters in a warmer climate.
In 1967 she began co-hosting a live afternoon chat and variety show with Stan Bohrman on local television in Los Angeles. Two years later, she married a television writer and producer, Gary Devore. They were divorced in 1978.In 1971 she published a book about her husband, Nat King Cole: An Intimate Biography.
 A "movie buff," Mrs. Cole bought seven historic hand-sewn gowns worn in classic films at an MGM auction in 1970. She loaned the costumes for a 2004 fashion show fundraiser for the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach, even modeling the final gown, a black velvet dress with mink cuffs. Mrs. Cole, who loved vintage clothing, told the Times-Union she bought the dresses because they had been worn by stars who were her friends. For instance, Mrs. Cole's bond with Grace Kelly continued when Prince Albert became a friend of Mrs. Cole's daughters at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
In 2001 she moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, bringing with her gowns worn by Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Doris Day and others. She moved into a home in Marsh Landing and became involved in charity benefits.
She worked for the National Kidney Foundation, the Urban League and the Cardiac Research Foundation, Sloane Kettering Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Nat King Cole Memorial Fellowship at Tanglewood Music Centre and Nat King Cole Generation Hope Inc., founded by her daughters, Timolin and Casey.
In 2005, Mrs. Cole served her pot roast, with onion soup mix, beer and pitted prunes on top, at the Celebrity Chefs Tasting Luncheon and Silent Auction to benefit the Salvation Army. The Times-Union reported hers was one of the most popular stations.
Cole died in a nursing home in Boca Raton, Florida on July 10, 2012, at the age of 89, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.
(bio ifo various, mainly from Curtis Jackson & the Mayport Mirror)


zephyr said...

Thanks Bob I never knew Nat's wife was a singer as well.she sounds lovely

Don Dan said...

Thanks again for the good work. To complete the story, here is the Maria Cole album from 1954.


boppinbob said...

Wow....Thanks Don, what an unexpected pleasure!

Eddie Styles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.