By Matt Micucci
Singer Natalie Cole, daughter of the jazz legend Nat “King” Cole who carved out her own success, beginning as an R&B singer before gravitating towards the smooth pop and jazz standards passed away last Thursday, December 31, 2015.
Natalie’s career started early. Encouraged by her father, she was already singing on his Christmas albums and later performing with him at the age of eleven. He died when she was fifteen years old.
After majoring in Child Psychology and minoring in German in 1972 at the University of Massachussets, Natalie Cole started playing in small clubs with her Black Magic, covering R&B and rock numbers. There, she caught the attention of producers Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, who supported the release of her debut album Inseparable, which inspired comparisons with the likes of Aretha Franklin.
Released in 1975, Inseparable became an instant success, and the single it spanned This Will Be became a Top 10 hit as well as earning Natalie a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. She also won the Best New Artist award at the same ceremony.
The success of Inseperable made her a star. She followed it up with Natalie in 1976, and her first platinum record Unpredictable in 1977. In 1978 came her first live album Natalie Live!, and a year later, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Successive releases strengthened her popularity, but by 1980, her career began to take a detour, as the singer battled with drug addiction. In 1983, she entered a rehab facility in Connecticut and reportedly stayed there for a period of six months.
Following her release, she started a slow resurgence in terms of sales and chart success, that culminated with the release of her best selling album in 1991, Unforgettable…with Love. In this album, Natalie paid tribute to her father with reworked versions of some of his best-known songs, including Too Young and Mona Lisa. For the title track, her voice was spliced with her father’s, offering a delicate duet a quarter-century after his death.
Talking about her work on the album, she said “I didn’t shed really any real tears until the album was over. Then I cried a whole lot. When we started the project it was a way of reconnecting with my dad. Then when we did the last song, I had to say goodbye again.”
Cole followed the success with other albums of Jazz standards – Take a Look in 1993 and Stardust in 1996. The latter featured another father-daughter duet, When I Fall in Love, which won a 1996 Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals. Still Unforgettable, the follow up to the 1991 record, won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal album at the 2008 at the Grammys.
Natalie Cole has battled through drug problems and hepatitis that forced her to undergo a kidney transplant in May 2009, and died on Thursday evening as a result of complications from ongoing health issues. She was 65.