We remember Nat King Cole (1919 – 1965) and his trips to Cuba

We remember the one and only Nat King Cole, who was born on this day in 1919. He died of cancer in 1965. Like many of you, I grew up with Nat King Cole’s songs on my parents’ turntable. In our case, it was listening to Nat King Cole singing in Spanish. In fact, Cole visited Cuba several times.

We remember one of those visits today:

In the third visit to Tropicana he passed by the record factory PANART, it was during a cocktail party in Hollywood where the president of the record house PANART Ramon Sabat talked Nat into recording an album in Spanish, in San Miguel studios, in Center Havana where 40 years later would be recorded the Buena Vista Social Club album.

It was the first time Nat recorded outside the United States, this time for a branch of the Capitol, the PANART of Cuba. He recorded a LP of twelve songs where he included Cuban songs like Quizas, quizas, quizas, of Osvaldo Farres, El Bodeguero of Richard Egues, Delirio of Cesar Portillo de la Luz, in instrumental, because he was unable to master the phonetics of the song. He was accompanied by the Orchestra of Tropicana directed by Armando Romeu.

In total Nat recorded three albums in Spanish: A mis amigos (To my friends), in Cuba 1958, Cole en Español (Cole in Spanish), Mexico 1959, and More Cole 1962. The latter it’s said to have been recorded in Portuguese as well, in Brazil. Some of the most remembered songs of those three disks: Aquellos ojos verdes (Those green eyes), El Bodeguero (The Grocer), Noche de Ronda (Night of Round) of Agustin Lara, Perfidia Cachito (Treachery Cachito), Maria Elena (Yours is my heart), Ansiedad (Anxiety).

Nat King Cole left a huge musical print in Tropicana, Cuba left to Nat King Cole the prestige of winning in the most musical country of America. This success allowed him to open the road for other black singers from the United States in other scenarios.

Years later, my father told me about this last visit to Cuba. He recalled a lot of conversation and interest in Havana because the great Nat King Cole was on the island. The Spanish Cole LP was in my parents’ collection, and “Aquellos Ojos Verdes” was one of their favorite songs:

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