Natalie Cole

  • R&B and jazz singer born in 1950 in Los Angeles California. Died in 2015 of congestive heart failure.
  • Cole’s father was legendary crooner Nat “King” Cole and her mother was jazz singer Maria Hawkins Ellington – as such, she grew up affluent (she often referred to her family as “the Black Kennedys). Given her musical family, she was exposed to many genres as a child, particularly jazz, soul and blues. At age six, she sang on her father’s Christmas album, and she began to perform when she was eleven years old. She attended college, majoring in Child Psychology and minoring in German. After graduating, she sang in small clubs with her band, Black Magic. Many were disappointed that she mostly sang covers of R&B and rock songs instead of her father’s classics.
  • Cole was determined to take a path into music that did not ride the coattails of her famous father. In 1974, an R&B songwriting duo saw her perform in a club, and they asked Cole to make some demos of songs that they had written. The demos were given to record labels, and Capitol Records (her father’s former label) signed her. Her debut album, Inseparable, was released in 1975. The first single was a hit – This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) topped the R&B chart and it reached #6 on the Hot 100 chart. A second single, the title track Inseparable, also topped the R&B chart. The success of the album led to two Grammy awards – Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (breaking a streak of eight consecutive wins by Aretha Franklin).
  • Cole released five more albums during the 70s, with Unpredictable and Thankful both certified platinum – she was the first woman ever to have two platinum albums in the same year. She had three more #1 R&B songs – Sophisticated Lady (She’s a Different Lady), I’ve Got Love On My Mind and Our Love, with the latter two reaching the top ten of the Hot 100 chart. She won her third Grammy award with Sophisticated Lady.
  • Her success turned in the early 80s, as she battled with drug addiction and other personal problems. She managed a hit in 1980 with the single Someone That I Used to Love, which reached #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart, but other songs and albums during the first half of the 80s were not very successful. She checked into rehab for six months in 1983. After her release, she slowly began her resurgence in popularity. Albums released in 1987 and 1989 were well received, and she was back on the charts with Jump Start (#2 on the R&B chart), I Live For Your Love (#3 on the R&B chart), a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Pink Cadillac (#5 on the Hot 100) and Miss You Like Crazy (#7 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart).
  • Her career peaked in the 90s when she decided to pivot to jazz and to cover the music that her father made famous. In 1991, she released the Unforgettable…with Love album. It had 22 tracks, all covers of Nat King Cole standards. It was certified 7x platinum, and she won four Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the track Unforgettable, which was recorded as a “virtual duet” with her long-deceased father. She continued to focus on jazz and pop standards with 1993’s Take a Look album and 1996’s Stardust – the former won a Grammy award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance and the latter was certified platinum and it included another Natalie & Nat duet, When I Fall In Love, winning another Grammy.
  • From 1999 to 2013, Cole released four studio albums, two Christmas albums and an album in Spanish. She won her ninth Grammy award with her 2008 album Still Unforgettable. Her health began to decline in 2008 when she had liver and kidney ailments. She improved some after a kidney transplant in 2009. She was inspired to release her Spanish album in 2013 in part because the kidney that she received was from the niece of her Salvadoran nurse. Cole gave her final public performance at a benefit in May 2015. She passed away seven months later.
  • Unforgettable is one of my all time favorite songs. Here is Nat & Natalie performing the classic.

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