This Valentine’s Day, many of us will be trying to remember why we love our girl/boyfriend enough to write a romantic poem, while others of us are trying to forget that dirty, rotten, cheating no gooder who dumped us right before Valentine’s Day just to get out of buying us a present. Whatever your case may be, I’m pretty sure there will be a soundtrack.
Whether your mind is on how to woo that special someone who has you smitten, or smiting that ex-special someone’s belongings, still keep in mind those great voices that will make sense of your feelings through song and music. And also how closely those voices might relate to Black History month. The people who made classic songs popular, such as Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, BB King and Nina Simone, have a lot of history behind them.
Nat King Cole, for example, was born in 1919 in Montgomery, Ala., before his family moved to Chicago to follow Cole’s father’s dream of becoming a preacher. Because he belonged to a poor black family, he was born without a birth certificate, which was not uncommon for a black family in the early 1900s. Cole started out as a jazz singer. As a young man, he showed a great talent on the piano, and his brother was a bass guitar player. The two of them participated in different jazz groups, but as his career advanced, the age of big jazz and swing bands was ‘ending.’
This was a point of much controversy in his life; many regarded him as a traitor to jazz music because he went into singing what was considered ‘pop’ music at the time (My, how pop has changed). Civil Rights activists also ridiculed him for not doing enough for the cause and did not view him suing hotels that would not permit him and other African Americans to stay because of their color as enough.
Although he wasn’t the greatest civil rights activist, he was a musician not to be reckoned with. He became the first African American to sing at many of his venues and also was the first African American to headline in his own show, ‘The Nat King Cole Show’ that aired on NBC in 1956. He sang for the Inaugural Ball for John F. Kennedy and even sang for Queen Elizabeth II in the early 1960s. Cole became one of the greatest singers of his time, only second to Frank Sinatra. He went on to sing hit romantic songs such as ‘When I Fall in Love,’ ‘It was Fascination,’ ‘Zing Goes the String,’ ‘Nature Boy’ and, of course, ‘L-O-V-E,’ all of which are songs that will most likely be playing this Valentine’s Day.
If you’re not necessarily feeling the whole romantic thing, might I suggest a bit of Nina Simone for your V-Day play list? Listening to her soulful rendition of ‘I Put a Spell On You’ might do you a lot more good than ‘Bustin’ the Windows’ out of somebody’s car’hellip;maybe. Then maybe pick up your mood with ‘Ain’t Got No’hellip; I Got Life’ if you’re feeling extra self pity because that guy of girl just wasn’t ‘that into you.’ Then top it all off with a positive, ‘Here Comes the Sunshine’ after you finish that gallon of ice cream, and look forward to a better tomorrow. After all, the frolicking happy couples will be done rubbing their happiness in your face by then.
But whatever your Valentine’s Day mood is, apply a healthy amount of music and a good dose of Black History.
I leave you with Nat King Cole’s ‘It was Fascination.’
It was fascination
Seeing you alone
With the moonlight above
Then I touch your hand
And next moment
I kiss you
Fascination turned to love