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Died February 15

Nat King Cole's first public performance, at age 4, was a rendition of "Yes! We Have No Bananas," which he learned from his mother, herself a church organist. By age 12, Cole was taking formal lessons in jazz, gospel, and classical music while doing everything he could to hear what was going on in the clubs near his home in Chicago, listening to the likes of Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jimmie Noone. Before long, he was embarking on his own career, one that would vault him to the top of the charts and make him the first African-American to host a variety show on American network television. We remember Cole's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.


Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including actor and comedian Chris Farley.


2016: Vanity, born Denise Matthews, Canadian singer, actress, and model known best for working with superstar Prince, dies at 57.

She fronted the group Vanity 6, which associated closely with Prince. Vanity 6 released just a single album and was active from 1981 until 1983. The band was well-known for the 1982 R&B hit “Nasty Girl.” Read more

 

 

2015: Steve MontadorCanadian NHL defenseman who played for the Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks, dies at 35.

2014: Mary Grace Canfield, U.S. actress who played Ralph Monroe on "Green Acres," dies at 89.

Mary Grace Canfield (AP Photo/Courtesy Phoebe Alexiades)Canfield had appearances on a number of TV shows during a four-decade career, including "General Hospital" and "The Hathaways," according to her obituary by The Associated Press. She was Harriet Kravitz on four episodes of the 1960s series "Bewitched." But she was known best for her role of Ralph Monroe in some 40 episodes of "Green Acres," which ran from 1965 to 1971. Monroe greeted folks in the town of Hooterville with a cheery "howdy doody," wore painters overalls, and was forever working on the Douglas family's bedroom with her brother, Alf. Read more

 

2014: Horst Rechelbacher, Austrian businessman who founded the Aveda Corp., dies of pancreatic cancer at 72.

Horst Rechelbacher  (Photo By Dave Buresh/The Denver Post via Getty Images)Rechelbacher was an Austrian immigrant to the U.S. who founded the company in 1978. He started with one salon that he turned into larger company that he eventually sold to Estee Lauder Cos. for $300 million. Aveda sells hair-care and skin-care products for men and women. Read more

 

 

2012: Charles Anthony, U.S. opera tenor who appeared in more performances at the Metropolitan Opera than any other performer, dies at 82.

2010: Jeanne Holm, U.S. major general who was the first female one-star general of the USAF and the first female two-star general in any service branch of the U.S., dies at 88.

"As a colonel and later after her promotion, General Holm pushed to increase women’s opportunities in the Air Force by more than doubling their number, vastly expanding the kinds of positions they could fill and ending policies that discriminated against women." Read more at the New York Times

 

 

 

2007: Ray Evans, U.S. songwriter who wrote many songs for movies, including the Academy Award-winning "Mona Lisa," dies at 92.

2007: Walker Edmiston, U.S. actor who provided the voice of Ernie the Keebler Elf in the well-known TV commercials, dies at 82.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he voiced many characters on shows created by Sid and Marty Krofft, including Dr. Blinkey and Orson the Vulture on "H.R. Pufnstuf" and Sparky the Firefly on "Bugaloos," according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Edmiston also had acting roles in episodes of such TV series as "Gunsmoke," "Mission: Impossible," and "The Dukes of Hazzard," and performed for nearly 20 years on "Adventures in Odyssey," a radio series produced by the nonprofit group Focus on the Family. Read more

 

2004: Jan Miner, U.S. actress who played the wisecracking manicurist Madge in the long-running Palmolive dish detergent commercials, dies at 86.

2002: Kevin Smith, New Zealand actor who starred as Ares on the TV series "Hercules" and "Xena: Warrior Princess," dies at 38.

2002: Howard K. Smith, U.S. journalist who worked for CBS and then ABC, dies at 87.

1999: Big L, popular U.S. rapper, is killed in a drive-by shooting at 24.

1998: Martha Gellhorn, U.S. journalist who was considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century and was married at one time to Ernest Hemingway, dies at 89.

1996: Tommy Rettig, U.S. actor known best for his role as Jeff Miller on the "Lassie" television series, dies at 54.

1996: McLean Stevenson, U.S. actor well-known for playing Lt. Colonel Henry Blake on the TV series "M*A*S*H," dies of a heart attack at 68.

1992: William H. Schuman, U.S. composer who won a Pulitzer Prize, dies at 81.

1990: Henry Brandon, U.S. character actor who had a 60-year career, dies at 77.

1988: Richard P. Feynman, U.S. theoretical physicist who was one of the members of the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb, dies at 69.

Feynman was a giant of science, a physicist who worked on the atomic bomb, quantum mechanics, particle physics, and other projects and concepts that the majority of us can't begin to comprehend. But when we didn't understand Feynman's work, it wasn't for his lack of trying: One of his missions was to make difficult scientific concepts more understandable for everyday people. It's not every day that we want to listen to a science lecture … but Feynman made it fun. Read more

 

1987: Jimmy Holiday, U.S. singer who co-wrote the hit song "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," dies at 52.

1984: Ethel Merman, U.S. singer and actress whose signature song was "There's No Business Like Show Business," dies at 76.

That big voice didn't come from years of lessons, working, and studying to increase her range and power. No, it was all natural – Merman never had a singing lesson in her life. And yet her powerful voice could reach every corner of a Broadway theater, right to the back row, without amplification. And her enunciation was so crystal clear that every word could be heard and understood by the folks in that back row. Composer George Gershwin was so impressed that he begged her never to work with a vocal teacher. Read more

 

1984: Avon Long, Tony Award-nominated U.S. dancer and actor, dies at 73.

1973: Wally Cox, U.S. actor who starred on the TV series "Mr. Peepers" and provided the voice for the animated canine superhero on "Underdog," dies of a heart attack at 48.

1965: Nat King Cole, U.S. singer who had hit songs with "Unforgettable" and "Mona Lisa," dies of lung cancer at 45.

Cole has been credited with being among the first bandleaders to use a trio of piano, guitar, and bass at a time when big bands held sway. This combo also would be used by jazz he avyweights like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson as well as blues artists like Ray Charles. His first popular hit came in 1943 with "Straighten Up and Fly Right," a song based on an African-American folk tale Cole's preacher father often referred to in his sermons. The recording is often considered a precursor to rock 'n' roll. Read more

 

1933: Pat Sullivan, Australian-American cartoonist who co-created Felix the Cat, dies at 46.


Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including actor and comedian Chris Farley.