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by Jason Gubbels

June 17, 2013

Nat King Cole Tributes: Disciples and Devotees

by Jason Gubbels  |  June 17, 2013

George Benson's new album, Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, is just the latest in a musical tradition dating back to Nat King Cole's early death in 1964. The following year, Marvin Gaye released an album-length salute to Cole on Motown; 30 years later, jazz singer Diana Krall's dedication to the Cole Trio, All for You, helped make her a star. And tenor saxophone titan David Murray recently put his own twist on the matter, assembling a diverse ensemble to explore the legacy of Cole's Spanish-language releases (Cole EspaƱol and its sequels).

Even aside from such lengthy projects, plenty of pop and jazz artists have expressed their love for the golden-voiced singer by respectfully covering songs first made famous by Cole, as the appended playlist makes clear. Some don't try to sound like the man in question -- John Coltrane moodily adapted "Nature Boy" for his mid-'60s quartet, while The Rolling Stones absolutely tore through "Route 66" on their debut. But both Stevie Wonder and pianist Oscar Peterson echoed the master's phrasing (with Peterson especially proving an almost startling mimic, even more surprising considering he rarely sang on record at all). You'll hear country stars Conway Twitty and Ray Price, questionable forays into Cole territory from the likes of Rick Astley and Donny Osmond, and little-heard gems from Lady Gaga and Fats Domino. Plus, a "duet" of sorts between Cole and daughter Natalie Cole, a gimmick we'll allow Ms. Cole seeing how she's family and all.

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