“Straighten Up and Fly Right”: Nat King Cole’s Timeless Swing Jazz Classic

“Straighten Up and Fly Right” is a beloved jazz song recorded by the legendary Nat King Cole in 1943. The track quickly became a hit and has since become a timeless classic in the world of swing jazz. With its catchy melody, clever lyrics, and Cole’s signature vocal style, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” remains a cherished gem in the history of American popular music.

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Musical Composition

The song was written by Nat King Cole himself, along with his longtime collaborator Irving Mills. “Straighten Up and Fly Right” features a lively and upbeat swing jazz arrangement, characterized by its infectious rhythm and memorable horn section.

The catchy call-and-response structure between Cole’s vocals and the background singers adds to the song’s charm and accessibility.

Lyrics and Themes

“Straighten Up and Fly Right” tells a humorous and cautionary tale of a buzzard giving sage advice to a monkey trying to fly. The monkey’s antics, such as attempting to fly from a limb and being deceived by a friendly hawk, serve as metaphorical lessons about making wise decisions and avoiding trouble.

The song’s clever lyrics and playful storytelling have made it a favorite among jazz enthusiasts and casual listeners alike.

Impact and Legacy

Upon its release, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” became a commercial success and earned Nat King Cole widespread recognition as a talented vocalist and songwriter. The song’s popularity helped establish Cole’s career as one of the leading figures in jazz and pop music.

Nat King Cole’s Legacy

Nat King Cole’s velvety-smooth voice and masterful phrasing made him a beloved and influential figure in the music world. He became one of the first African American artists to host a nationally televised variety show, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of Black musicians.


“Straighten Up and Fly Right” stands as a testament to Nat King Cole’s musical genius and enduring appeal. Its combination of swing jazz rhythms, clever storytelling, and Cole’s distinctive vocals has solidified its place in the American songbook.

Whether you’re a jazz aficionado or a casual listener, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” offers a delightful musical journey back to the golden age of swing jazz. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the timelessness of Nat King Cole’s artistry and the universal themes conveyed in his music.

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