Natalie Cole (1950-2015)
By: Legacy Staff
2 years ago
Natalie Cole, the Grammy Award-winning singer and daughter of legendary jazz singer Nat “King” Cole, has died, according to The Associated Press. She was 65.
According to a statement by her family, Cole died of complications from ongoing health issues Dec. 30, 2015, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Born Feb. 6, 1950, to singers Nat “King” Cole and Maria Hawkins Ellington, who at one time was a backup singer for Duke Ellington. Natalie enjoyed a childhood surrounded by world-class musicians. She began singing herself at an early age, often with her father. But when she was 15, he died of lung cancer.
In college, she majored in child psychology, but upon graduating she pursued a career as a singer. She had begun singing in college at clubs that would often book her with the assumption that she would perform in a jazz style similar to that of her father. However, Cole was more in line with her idols Aretha Franklin and rocker Janis Joplin. She eventually landed a recording contract with Capitol Records, her father’s label. However, she refused to cover his music, preferring to blaze a different trail.
Her career as a recording artist took off immediately. All six of her albums from the 1970s went gold, and two, Unpredictable and Thankful, went platinum. During this time, she also topped the charts with five No. 1 R&B hits, including “This Will Be,” “Inseparable” and her signature hit, “Our Love.”
In 1976, she won two Grammy awards, for best new artist and best R&B vocal performance for “This Will Be.” She followed it up with a second best R&B vocal performance for “Sophisticated Lady” in 1977. Unfortunately, in the midst of this career success, she was struggling with drug addiction. Eventually, she checked herself into rehab in 1983.
In 1991, Cole had the biggest hit of her career with the album Unforgettable … With Love. The album consisted of covers of her father’s songs and featured “Unforgettable,” a duet between daughter and father edited together through new technology from recordings he had made before his death. The album was sentimental and sincere, both popular and well-respected by the music industry. It sold over 7 million copies and won six Grammys in 1992, including album of the year, record of the year and song of the year.
Cole embraced a more adult contemporary and jazz-influenced style in her later career. She continued performing live, despite increasing health problems that led to a kidney transplant in 2009.
In 2000, she revealed her history of drug abuse in her autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder. When she was diagnosed in 2008 with the liver disease hepatitis C, she blamed her past drug use, where she likely came into contact with infected blood from using dirty needles. In later years, she often spoke publicly about her drug abuse.
“I don’t want people to have an artificial view of who I am,” she told the Houston Chronicle in 2014. “I think that one of the things (talking about addiction) does is encourages other people to come forward and do the same.”
In addition to her career as a musician, Cole also had dramatic roles as an actress, including the television shows Touched by an Angel and Grey’s Anatomy.
Cole is survived her family, including son Robert Yancy and sisters Timolin and Casey Cole, who remembered her with this 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.”
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