Some love stories are music to our ears! The marriage of musicians Nat King Cole and Maria Cole exemplifies the beauty of a talented union. Nat King Cole has become a symbol of love. His soothing voice, and passion filled lyrics are a staple at many weddings. However, he was also an African American pioneer. He was the first black host of a national variety show on television, “The Nat King Cole Show,” which ran from 1956-57. Maria Cole was also an accomplished jazz singer who performed with Count Basie and Duke Ellington in the 1940s. Her marriage to Mr. Cole lasted 17 years until his untimely death from lung cancer in 1965 at the age of 45. Sadly, Mrs. Cole recently passed at the age of 89 from cancer. However, we are lucky that the Cole’s talent and love will endure through the ages and continue to inspire many for years to come. Read about how this gifted couple began making beautiful music together.
How They Met
In 1943, Maria married Spurgeon Ellington, a Tuskegee Airmen flyer during World War II. He was killed in Georgia two years later during a routine postwar training flight. According to a New York Times article, in 1946 Mrs. Cole began appearing as an opening act for the Mills Brothers at Club Zanzibar in Harlem. One night the Nat King Cole Trio substituted for the Mills Brothers. Mr. Cole stood backstage, watched Maria perform, and was enamored with her talent and beauty. He divorced his first wife, Nadine, just six days before he married Maria in 1948.
Mr. and Mrs. Cole were married on Easter Sunday, in a grand ceremony at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. officiated. Their wedding cake had five tiers. According to a 1992 biography of Nat King Cole, “The bride wore a blue off-shoulder satin gown and carried a bouquet of white roses … About three thousand people attended the church ceremony … Sarah Vaughan, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and a great number of other celebrities attended. Eddie Cole was Nat’s best man, Maria’s sister Charlotte was matron of honor, her other sister Carol was a bridesmaid and Carol’s little daughter, also named Carol, was a flower girl.” Their reception was held at the Belmont Plaza Hotel, which caused a stir because many hotels in New York City still discriminated against African Americans. The couple honeymooned in Mexico City and Acapulco.
The Cole’s would go on to have five children. In 1949 they adopted daughter Carol (known as “Cookie”), the daughter of Maria’s late sister. Their first biological child, Natalie Cole, was born in 1950 and she is a well-known nine-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter. In 1959 they adopted their son Nat Kelly Cole. Their twin daughters, Timolin and Casey, were born in 1961. Mrs. Cole paused her career to raise their five children and support her husband’s career. While on tour the Cole’s encountered racism. Mr. Cole was attacked onstage in Alabama in 1956, and in a CNN interview, Mrs. Cole shared this, “There were refusals at hotels, there were places we’d go he wouldn’t let me get out of the car because they would go in first to see if we could get the rooms. He didn’t want me embarrassed with him.” However, through racism and marital issues, the Cole’s made it work. Mrs. Cole was with her husband through his illness, and she stayed with him until his death.
Timeless Words of Love
In a 1989 interview the Boston Globe, Mrs. Cole stated that their marriage worked because they fulfilled each other’s’ needs, “Nat wanted to improve himself. I wanted to help him improve. What he needed, I had. What I needed, he had. That’s why our marriage worked.” There are only a few couples that are truly unforgettable and Nat King Cole and Maria Cole are one of them.
Maria Cole’s Wedding Look
According to Vintageblackglamour.com, Ms. Cole wore a $700 ice-blue satin dress designed by, Zelda Wynn Valdes! It was an eye catching off the shoulder gown, with long pointed sleeves that extended down over her hands. For the ceremony, she added a while beaded shawl. If you would like to recreate Ms. Cole’s look, try an off the shoulder look with expands into A-line or ball gown skirt, like the ones below from DaVinci Bridal, Romona Kevaza, Sincerity Bridal and Valentini Spose.
If you are a fashion forward bride and want to make a big statement like Ms. Cole, try a blue wedding dress. These dresses from Angel Sanchez, Elie Saab, Hamad Al Fahim, Maggie Sottero, and Rosa Clara are heavenly.
Photo Credits: Ebony Magazine, Time Magazine, Getty Images