Nat King Cole Still Soothes The Soul

Nat King Cole Still Soothes The Soul

A velvet smooth voice singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose” is always the first thing that comes to mind whenever I see the name Nat ‘King’ Cole. In fact, even though the dapper Cole was often pictured sitting at a piano, and I knew that he had been the leader of a jazz trio, it wasn’t until I came across Nat King Cole by Daniel Mark Epstein that I really understood how important Cole had been to the American music scene.


By the time I finished the book yesterday, I felt like I had added a new wing to the library in my mind. Why hasn’t anyone looked at making a modern day biopic of this man’s incredible life? It’s not just a life story, it is a life of great stories within a storybook life. 

Cole grew up in Chicago, with a piano playing mother and a preacher for a father, in an apartment a stone’s throw from the city’s jazz district. Epstein’s narrative portrayal of the young man kept bringing the childhood of artist Pablo Picasso to mind with his vivid descriptions of Cole’s precocious musical talents as a four year old. The one thing that came back to me, chapter after chapter, is how much Cole worked at learning his craft, forever writing songs and crafting lyrics to sit atop the glide of his lithe hands, hands that always seemed to be resting on piano keys somewhere.

A buzzard took the monkey for a ride in the air The monkey thought that everything was on the square The buzzard tried to throw the monkey off his back The monkey grabbed his neck and said 'now listen, jack'

'straighten up and fly right' 'straighten up and fly right' 'straighten up and fly right' 'cool down, papa, don't you blow your top.'

Straighten Up And Fly Right written by Nat Cole

The first time I heard this song years ago, I had no choice but to imagine just what Cole proposed in his lyrics—an actual monkey riding on a buzzard’s back high in the air. The light but insistent tune carrying the words seemed to have been tailored to fit these simple sixteen lines that catapulted Cole and his trio from being one of the hottest Los Angeles nightclub act in the forties to nationally known stars.

The book was a treasure trove of information about the developments in the twentieth century that illuminated not only the lives of Nat Cole and his family and friends and business partners and band members, but also the work of other prominent African American  

 I read about the dance called the Mess Around and immediately saw where the title of a Ray Charles hit song by the same name had been plucked.

When I came across the brand name “John the Conquer Root”, in my mind’s eye I saw the hand of blues songwriter Willie Dixon penciling it into one of the lines to Muddy Water’s “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

When I read that Rhinegold Beer was one of the first sponsors of Nat Cole’s historic variety show on NBC, the Harlem bars featured in the novel Invisible Man popped into my head.

And when I read the quote by Andrew J. Copp, president of the Hancock Park Property Owners Association, who sent this message to Nat Cole: “Tell Mr. Cole if he will rescind the sale of his house, we will give him his money back with a little profit”, I could hear almost the exact same line in Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin In The Sun.  

Epstein boiled this great musician’s life “down to a low gravy”, as jazz musicians used to say, presenting the very essence of Nat 'King' Cole, a virtuoso whose music still soothes the soul.

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

U.S. Navy ships

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

Why so gassy? Mysterious methane detected on Saturn’s moon

Scientists do not know what is causing the overabundance of the gas.

An impression of NASA's Cassini spacecraft flying through a water plume on the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Credit: NASA
Surprising Science
  • A new study looked to understand the source of methane on Saturn's moon Enceladus.
  • The scientists used computer models with data from the Cassini spacecraft.
  • The explanation could lie in alien organisms or non-biological processes.
Keep reading Show less

CRISPR therapy cures first genetic disorder inside the body

It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.

Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

Quantcast