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Natalie Cole was an American African-American singer, songwriter and musician. More than just the daughter of the legendary crooner Nat King Cole, Natalie has established herself as a singer in her own right. As she grew up listening to the usual R&B and soul to pop and psychedelic rock, Cole applied many of these earliest influences into her body of work. Cole achieved many hit singles during the 70s music era up to the 1980s. She’s known for her singles “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” (which peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 in 1975), “I’ve Got Love On My Mind” (at #5 in 1977), “Our Love” (at #10 in 1977) “Pink Cadillac” (at #5 in 1988), and “Miss You Like Crazy” (at #7 1989). She covered her late father’s most popular tunes on her most successful album to date, Unforgettable…With Love in 1991. Cole is also an occasional actress, having appeared in such productions as TV episodes on Law & Order and Grace Anatomy, and films like De-Lovely ( a movie based on Cole Porter’s life). She died on December 31, 2015, aged 65.
Early life and career
You could say that Natalie Cole was a showbiz royalty. She was born Natalie Maria Cole born on February 6, 1950, in Los Angeles’ upscale Hancock Park district. Her father was the velvety-voiced legend Nat King Cole. Cole’s family became the first African-American residents of the affluent, predominantly white community, and was even referred to as “the black Kennedys.”
It was inevitable that Cole would follow her father’s footsteps. At age six she began to sing professionally, singing on her father’s Christmas LP, and at age 11 made her stage debut. Her father passed away in 1965, when Natalie was 15.
Cole was discovered by renowned producers Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy (who would also be her future husband). Their association led to recording a few demos which they shipped to various record companies. Only Capitol Records (which happened to be her father Nat King Cole’s label) took Cole in.
On Capitol, Cole released her debut album Inseparable in May 1975. Most of the album’s tracks were written by the Jackson/Yancy tandem. Inseparable’s leadoff single “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” became a hit on both pop and R&B charts, at #6 and #1 respectively. The album sold over a million copies, and was awarded with a gold disc.
Cole’s second LP Natalie was released in April 1976. Although it also went gold, it suffered a relative sophomore slump, with the singles “Sophisticated Lady (She’s A Different Lady)” and “Mr. Melody” becoming only minor hits. Her third LPUnpredictable came out in early 1977. It became Cole’s first platinum-selling album and entered the top 10 pop album charts for the first time. Unpredictable’s single “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” broke into the Hot 100’s top ten again and peaked at #5 (it also made it to #1 on the R&B singles chart).
Continuing her successful collaboration with the Jackson/Yancy pair, they worked on her next album Thankful (1977). It went on to become another platinum seller, helped by hit R&B singles “Our Love” (#10 pop, #1 R&B) and “Annie Mae” (#6 R&B). Still exploring her soul roots, Cole came out with her fifth studio LP I Love You So (1979), which was produced by Jackson and Yancy; it eventually went gold.
Pop-flavored R&B phase
After a few subsequent albums on Capitol which became only moderately successful, Cole moved to Epic Records for a brief period. She released her only album on that label I’m Ready in 1983; it was to be also her last project with Jackson and Yancy.
Throughout much of her life, Cole had been battling with drugs, particularly heroin and cocaine. Later, her addiction affected her record sales and chart performance. In 1983, she went under rehabilitation which turned out to be successful. She staged a comeback trail starting with 1985’s Dangerous, and the more successful Everlasting the following year. It yielded three hits: “Jump Start” (#13 pop, #2 R&B), “I Live for Your Love” (#13 pop, #4 R&B) and her hit dance-music rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” (#5 pop, #1 dance, #9 R&B). In 1989, she released another album Good to Be Back, which featured the hit ballad “Miss You Like Crazy” (#1 on both R&B and adult contemporary and #7 pop). During those periods Cole had ditched her soul roots in favor of pop-flavored R&B material.
Traditional pop and jazz phase
Cole’s most successful record arrived in 1991 with the album Unforgettable…With Love. It went to #1 on the US chart, and some parts of the world (Australia, Canada, and New Zealand). In the US, it sold over seven million copies, and went multi-platinum. The success of the album rested on the track “Unforgettable,” her “duet” with her later father (via his old 1961 recording). “Unforgettable” went to #14 on the Hot 100, #3 on the adult contemporary and #10 on the R&B singles chart. “Unforgettable” also won Grammys — one for Song of The Year and another for Record of the Year.
Since Unforgettable…With Love, Cole has taken the traditional pop approach that her late father was also known for, and also made a foray into jazz. She has been singing American pop standards as evidenced in her later albums such as the Grammy Award-winning Take a Look (1993), Holly and Ivy (1994) and her last platinum album Stardust (1996). She also collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra for her Christmas album The Magic of Christmas (1999).
In 2008 Cole released another studio album Still Unforgettable, continuing her exploration with American pop standards. It was her strongest release in recent years, debuting at #19 on the pop album charts, and #1 on the R&B album chart. Her latest studio album, Natalie Cole in Espanol, was issued on Verve label in 2013.
On December 31, 2015, Cole died from idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension as a result from her kidney transplant back in 2009. She was 65 years old. Her remains now lie at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. She will surely be missed by many oldies music lovers.