Natalie Cole Is “Unforgettable” Even in Her Passing

Natalie Cole is “Unforgettable” Even in Her Passing


Natalie Cole on top of the world  . . .
          Natalie Cole on top of the world . . .

Natalie Cole’s die hard  optimism amid personal struggles was inspirational. Her voice? Unforgettable.

Natalie Cole has died at age 65.

Multiple Grammy Award winner Natalie Cole the daughter of legendary vocalist Nat King Cole has died  at age 65. Of course she had achieved her own level of off the charts stardom. Fraught with personal struggles throughout her youth amid the story book life she lived somehow her spirit of a winner pushed her through and she soared.

Natalie Cole was born at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, and raised in the affluent Hancock Park district of Los Angeles. Regarding her childhood, Cole referred to her family as “the Black Kennedys” and was exposed to many of the great musical geniuses  of jazz, soul, and blues. At the age of 6, Natalie recorded a duet with her father on her his Christmas album and later began performing at age 11,alongside him on his television show..

When Natalie Cole was 15 and attending boarding school across the country, her father died of lung cancer. As she grew up without her father’s guidance, Cole never abandoned music. She studied Psychology in college at the University of Massachusetts and sang in clubs on weekends, where she was billed as Nat King Cole’s daughter. Yet she was about to find her own voice.

Born February 6, 1950, Natalie would have turned 66 but she didn’t see 2016 when she passed Thursday  December 31, 2015 New Years Eve. She’s known as an  American singer, songwriter, and magnetic entertainer.  Always glamorous and classic her presentation on stage reflected the high touted era of Blacks hay day in Harlem when Black stars put on the Ritz at the Cotton Club and all the clubs around the world that showcased the best of Black talent.

Although Natalie rose to musical success in the mid–1970s as an R&B artist with the hits “This Will Be”, “Inseparable”, and “Our Love” it was not because   she was Nat King Cole’s  daughter. She might attest that her talent was due to her father’s genes but she faced the same as all teens. She wanted to be accepted, missed the father in her life who was often away from home on the road. She was shared how her vulnerability to her naivety mixed with self indulgence weakened her and made her susceptible to drugs.

Still she had discovered her creative ability through music. After a period of failing sales and performances due to a heavy drug addiction, Cole re-emerged as a pop artist with the 1987 album Everlasting and her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac”. In the 1990s, she re-recorded standards by her father, resulting in her biggest success, Unforgettable… with Love, which sold over seven million copies and also won Cole numerous Grammy Awards. She sold over 30 million records worldwide.

“I think that I am a walking testimony that you can have scars,” she told CBS’s Sunday Morning in 2006. “You can go through turbulent times and still have victory in your life.”

EBC Statement

Natalie Cole holding her Grammy
            Natalie Cole holding her Grammy

Early career

Following graduation, Natalie Cole, who had grown up listening to a variety of artists from soul artists such as Aretha Franklin to psychedelic rock icon Janis Joplin, began her musical career mimicking those voices of style that she admire singing at small clubs with her band, Black Magic.

Initially clubs  welcomed her because she was  Nat King Cole’s daughter, and possessed name recognition. They assumed that she was following her father’s  genre however they were disappointed when she began covering R&B and rock numbers. While performing, she was noted by a couple of producers in the Chicago area, Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy (whom she later married), who then approached her to record.  After cutting several records together, they passed off the music to several record labels.  Capitol Records, who had recorded her father  heard the compositions and agreed to sign her. 

Chicagoan Marvin Yancy, producer, also Husband of Natalie Cole
Chicagoan Marvin Yancy, producer, also husband of Natalie Cole

Cole, Yancy and Jackson went into studios in Los Angeles to polish the recordings they laid, resulting in the release of Cole’s debut album, Inseparable, which included songs that reminded listeners of Aretha Franklin with good reason.  In fact, Franklin later contended that songs such as “This Will Be”, “I Can’t Say No” and others were originally offered to her while she was recording the You album. Franklin turned most of the songs down but agreed to record the title track for her album. Cole also recorded “You”.

Released in 1975, the album became an instant success thanks to “This Will Be”, which became a top ten hit and later winning Cole a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. A second single, “Inseparable”, also became a hit. Both songs reached number-one on the R&B chart. Cole also won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards for her accomplishments.

Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin at The House of Blues
Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin at The House of Blues

Due to the media’s billing of Cole as the “new Aretha Franklin”, it inadvertently has been a rumor that it started a rivalry between the two singers. However, Natalie was never touted as the Queen of Soul, a title that Aretha Franklin has held since it was donned.  She wore and continues where the crown so it was never a real rivalry only one created by the media.

Initial stardom

Becoming an instant star, Cole responded to critics of an impending sophomore slump with Natalie, released in 1976. The album, like Inseparable, became a gold success thanks to the funk-influenced cut “Sophisticated Lady” and the jazz-influenced “Mr. Melody”.

Natalie Cole released her first platinum record with her third release, Unpredictable, mainly thanks to the number-one R&B hit, “I’ve Got Love on My Mind”. Originally an album track, the album’s closer, “I’m Catching Hell”, nonetheless became a popular Cole song during live concert shows.

Later in 1977, Natalie Cole issued her fourth release and second platinum album, Thankful, which included another signature Cole hit, “Our Love.” Natalie was the first female artist to have two platinum albums in one year. To capitalize on her fame, she starred on her own TV special, which attracted such celebrities as Earth, Wind & Fire, and also appeared on the TV special, “Sinatra and Friends.” In 1978, Cole released her first live album, Natalie Live!

In early 1979, the singer was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That same year, she released two more albums, I Love You So and the Peabo Bryson duet album, We’re the Best of Friends. Both albums reached gold status in the U.S. continuing her popularity.

Career Slump and Resurgence

Following the release of her eighth album, 1980’s Don’t Look Back, Cole’s career began to slip, as sales failed.  Although Cole scored an adult contemporary hit with the soft rock ballad “Someone That I Used To Love” off the album, the album overall failed to go gold.

In 1981, Cole succumbed to personal issues, including battles with drug addiction, began to take public notice, and her career suffered as a result. In 1983, following the release of her album I’m Ready, released on Epic, Cole entered a rehab facility in Connecticut and reportedly stayed there for a period of six months.

Following her release, she signed with the Atco imprint Modern Records and released Dangerous, which started a slow resurgence for Cole in terms of record sales and chart success. In 1987, she moved to EMI-Manhattan Records and released the ‘album Everlasting, which returned her to the top of the charts thanks to singles such as “Jump Start (My Heart)”, the top ten ballad, “I Live For Your Love”, and her dance-pop cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.”

That success helped “Everlasting” reach one million in sales and become Cole’s first platinum album in ten years. In 1989, she released her follow-up to Everlasting, Good to Be Back, which produced the number two hit “Miss You Like Crazy”; it also achieved international success, reaching the top ten in the United Kingdom.

        “Unforgettable” put Natalie back on top

Natalie Cole released her best-selling album with 1991’s Unforgettable… with Love on Elektra Records, which presented Cole singing songs her famous father recorded, nearly 20 years after she initially had refused to cover her father’s songs during live concerts.

Natalie Cole produced vocal arrangements for the songs, with piano accompaniment by her uncle Ike Cole.  Natalie Cole’s label released an interactive duet between she and her father Nat King Cole  on the title song, “Unforgettable”. The song eventually reached number fourteen on            the Billboard Hot 100 and number ten on the R&B chart, going gold. Unforgettable…with Love eventually sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone and won several Grammys, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance for the top song.

Success followed with another album of jazz standards, titled Take a Look, in 1993, which included her recording of the title track in the same styling that her idol Aretha Franklin had recorded nearly 30 years earlier. The album eventually went gold while a holiday album, Holly & Ivy, also became gold. Another standards release, Stardust, went platinum and featured another duet with her father on a modern version of “When I Fall in Love,” which helped Cole earn another Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

Subsequent  Success

In 1999, Cole returned to her 1980s-era urban contemporary recording style with the release of Snowfall on the Sahara on June and second holiday album The Magic of Christmas on October, which recorded with London Symphony Orchestra. A year later, the singer collaborated on the production of her biopic, Livin’ For Love: The Natalie Cole Story, which featured Theresa Randle in the role of Cole. She also released the compilation Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 to fulfill her contract with Elektra.

She left Elektra to go to  Verve Records and released two albums. 2002’s Ask a Woman Who Knows continued her jazz aspirations, while 2006’s Leavin’ again featured Cole singing pop, rock and R&B standards. Her cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Daydreaming”, became a minor hit on the R&B charts. In 2008, seventeen years after Unforgettable… with Love, Cole released Still Unforgettable, which included not only songs made famous by her father but other artists, including Frank Sinatra. The album later resulted in Grammy wins for Cole.

In April 2012, she appeared as a Pennington Great Performers series artist with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.


Even though she was undergoing dialysis three times a week fighting her own battles  as her health faded Cole was helping her sister, Cookie, battle cancer. Her sister died the morning Cole got a successful kidney transplant in May 2009. Natalie Cole  revealed how she almost turned down a life saving double transplant because of ‘survivor’s guilt.’  

The call to report that  a liver and kidney donor had been found, came as her younger sister Carole was dying from lung cancer. Cole who was  60 at the time needed the transplant after contracting Hepatitis C she contracted after using a dirty needle from injecting heroin; for which she was diagnosed in 2008.

Her own life saved, Cole was devastated at the loss of her sister, but grateful to the family of the woman whose kidney she received.

Natalie Cole is quoted for having said, “No liver problems any more. See, it came from years on drugs. In the early ’80s, I was on heroin. You can get hepatitis C. I’d been on chemo .  .  . There’s blood transfusions. Contaminated needles. Bad things. You don’t feel it, but stuff stays in your body for years.”

Natalie Cole talked about her life in her autobiography “Love Brought Me Back,” published in November 2010.


Gave Her Best performance All the way to the end

Natalie Cole continued doing what she did performing throughout the U.S and abroad making  appearances in her Los Angeles home base at the Hollywood  Bowl until her health failed her.

The incredible artist’s family spoke out on Friday saying Cole died because of compilations from ongoing health issues. “Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived … with dignity, strength and honor. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever,” her children said in a statement referencing one of her hit songs “Unforgettable.” Cole,  had an enormous amount of talent and toured as recently as August 2015 before she was forced to cancel a string of performances due to her ailing health. But, Cole’s final recorded performance on Aug. 18, 2015 in Manila, Philippines would have taken your breath away.

 Even as she dealt with those ongoing health issues, she took the stage by storm to belt out several of her most memorable hits including “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” “Miss You Like Crazy,” and “Unforgettable.” Cole was a guest at the concert hosted by David Foster as part of his “The Hitman: David Foster and Friends Asia Tour” which also included artists like Boyz II Men and American Idol winner Ruben Studdard.

 Cole stole the show with her hits as she belted the numbers out.  She wasn’t in the best of health, and was assisted by David Foster  helped her walk out, but her voice was unwavering in its strength and passion.

Natalie Cole will be greatly missed. Thank goodness for technology  so that we can  continue to enjoy her contribution of her talent through videos and recording  of  her body of work.

Cole died Thursday evening at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles due to complications from ongoing health issues, her family said in a statement.

“Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived … with dignity, strength and honor. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever,” read the statement from her son Robert Yancy and sisters Timolin and Casey Cole.

Many have issued statements, tweeted, and posted via Istagram and Facebook their sentiment of love, loyalty and respect for the songstress.

“We are very saddened to learn of the passing of one of music’s most celebrated and iconic women, Natalie Cole, ” Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said in a statement. “…We’ve lost a wonderful, highly cherished artist and our heartfelt condolences go out to Natalie’s family, friends, her many collaborators, as well as to all who have been entertained by her exceptional talent.”

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