Sheet music:Smile / Modern Times


The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play

Written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 movie Modern Times, the song "Smile" became a hit when renowned singer Nat "King" Cole recorded it in 1954. Pictured here at the height of his career, Cole (1917-1965) was one of the most popular singers of his generation, appealing to black and white audiences alike. Having begun his career as a promising jazz pianist in the 1930s, Cole won fame as a singer with his 1943 recording of "Straighten Up and Fly Right," bridging the barrier between jazz and popular song. Although he continued to play jazz, his singing dominated the rest of his career, and he produced a steady stream of hits through the 1950s. Cole's 1949 recording of "Mona Lisa" topped the pop charts and sold over 3 million copies, making him the most successful African-American recording artist of his time. He overcame rampant racism, but critics chided him for not taking a stronger stand against racial injustice and for not refusing to perform for segregated audiences. He felt that goodwill and his musical talent would do more than politics to combat prejudice.

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  • Title: Sheet music:Smile / Modern Times
  • Date Created: 1954
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Subject Keywords: Nat King Cole, Modern Times
  • Type: Entertainment and Music
  • Medium: paper, photomechanical
  • Object ID: 90.496