A FILMMAKER has been given unparalleled access to legendary singer and pianist Nat King Cole for a documentary about his life.
Jon Brewer, 64, from Old Minster Lovell, has directed the feature-length documentary Nat King Cole: Afraid Of The Dark.
The former music manager, who has worked with David Bowie and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman, as well as Gerry Rafferty and prog rock band Yes, was contacted by Cole’s family to produce the 90-minute film. It includes songs, letters from assasintaed US President John F Kennedy and private journals by the musician that have never been released. The film will be shown in cinemas and broadcast by BBC Four later this month.
Mr Brewer, who runs his 2,000 sqft Windrush Studios from his home, said: “The family had suddenly come to the conclusion that now was the time to release these gems they had held back all these years.
“The BBC commissioning editor watched it and said this is the most emotional music documentary she had ever seen. That sort of sums it up.”
Grandfather-of-seven Mr Brewer, who lives with his American wife Laura Royko, 49, and six-year-old twins Jackson and Maia, began working in the music industry more than 40 years ago.
He has worked on about 80 films since the 1980s, including documentaries about Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence and Jimi Hendrix.
Mr Brewer, who used to live in Los Angeles, believes working with musicians helps him gain their trust when filming. His films are now released by his company Cardinal Releasing. Ms Royko heads the studio’s international sales.
In 2012 Mr Bewer released the documentary BB King: The Life of Riley in Britain after working with the musician. It is due to be released in 300 cinemas in the United States this year.
He was approached by the Nat King Cole family estate to make the documentary about the singer, who died in 1965, aged 45.
Mr Brewer was given letters and diary entries reflecting how Cole coped with fame as an African-American artist during the civil rights movement and interviewed his widow Maria Cole.
During the production, a fan of the singer also found about five unreleased Cole songs that had been mixed up with other artists in storage by his label Capitol Records in the 1960s.
Universal, which now owns Capitol, gave Mr Brewer the rights to use one of the songs, called Magic Window, as the soundtrack. Mr Brewer said: “He was a tremendous singer and slightly involved in the race aspects of that period.”
Prime Minister David Cameron visited the studios in March to discuss film funding and last Wednesday Mr Brewer met the Witney MP at Downing Street.
Mr Brewer said: “He didn’t know there was a film studio in his constituency and he loved what he saw.”
Nat King Cole: Afraid Of The Dark will premiere at The May Fair Hotel, Stratton Street, Mayfair, in London on Tuesday, May 13, including a performance by Cole’s daughter Natalie Cole.
It will be broadcast on BBC Four at 9pm on Friday, May 23.
NAT KING COLE
- Nat King Cole – born Nathaniel Adams Coles in March 1919 – was a jazz pianist and singer.
- He performed in The King Cole Trio in the late 1930s and 1940s, with their self-titled debut album ranked at number one in the American Billboard list for 12 weeks in 1945.
- Cole became famous as a solo performer in the 1950s and continued until his death from lung
- cancer in 1965.
- Famous songs include (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons, Mona Lisa, Too Young and Unforgettable.
- He was the first African-American to host his own TV entertainment programme, The Nat King Cole Show, in 1956 but he decided to end it the following year.
- Cole also performed in short films, sitcoms and other TV shows.
- Jon Brewer started as a music manager for
- up-and-coming artists including David Bowie, Gene Clarke of The Byrds, Rolling Stones members Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman, and 10 Years After singer and lead guitarist Alvin Lee.
- He formed his own record label and publishing company and recorded Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit Baker Street, which won the Ivor Novello Award for best song musically and lyrically.
- Mr Brewer began working in the film industry in the 1980s and has made music documentaries about Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Kurt Cobain and Michael Hutchence.
- He also produced The Annual Dance DVD in association with the Ministry of Sound. In 2012 released the documentary BB King: The Life of Riley and this year Bad Company: The Official Authorised 40th Anniversary Documentary.