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#ThrowbackThursday: Remembering Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole passed away on December 31, 2015 at 65 years old.

by Sean Smith

Happy 2016! I hope you all enjoyed celebrating the new year as much as I did. I was lucky enough to be able to bring in the new year holding fistfuls of cash as I was dominating my wife and daughter in a rousing game of Monopoly as the clock wound down to midnight.  I’m hoping that this is a symbol of what is to come my way in 2016. In fact, if all goes according to plan, by the time you are reading this I will have already won this huge $500 million Powerball jackpot! I’ll let you know how it went next week. But I digress. Let’s shift gears and get to the somber reason behind the subject of this week’s edition of #ThrowbackThursday here on Clizbeats.

As much as I’m sure we all enjoyed the festivities that went along with bringing in 2016, I’m sure we were equally all saddened to learn about the passing of a big name in the music industry. Singer/songwriter, and daughter of legend Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole passed away at the age of 65 from congestive heart failure on New Year’s Eve.

Musical ability came naturally to Natalie Cole. In fact, It ran in her veins. As mentioned, her father was the great crooner Nat King Cole, and her mother Maria Cole was a jazz singer who most famously worked with the legendary Duke Ellington. Her first foray into recording music came as just a young child when she recorded vocals for her father’s 1960 Christmas album. Her father would pass away due to lung cancer only five years later, at only 45. She was merely 15 at the time.

Natalie Cole didn’t jump completely into the music industry until after going off to college. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1972 with a Bachelor’s in Child Psychology, Cole began playing in a band that mostly covered R&B and rock songs. She purposefully stayed away from jazz in her early years in music, as she didn’t want to be perceived as simply riding her father’s coattails. Her music would be shopped around all the major labels, but was passed on by all but one. Capitol Records. The very same label that her late father had once called his musical home.

In 1975 Natalie Cole released her debut album Inseparable. The title track as well as “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” both would become #1 singles on the U.S. R&B charts.  The album also earned the young songstress her first two Grammy awards. She took home the golden gramophone for both Best New Artist as well as Best Female R&B Vocal Performance that year.

By the end of the 1970s Natalie Cole had cemented herself a place in the music industry. Before the end of the decade she had released six albums in total, two of which went platinum, and had a string of top charting songs like “Our Love,” “I’ve Got Love On My Mind,” and “Sophisticated Lady (She’s A Different Kind of Lady)” to her credit. By 1979 she had already earned herself a coveted star on the world renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame. She had made herself a star.

But in the early 1980s the stardom she had gained started to take a toll on her career. She started to struggle deeply with substance abuse. Although she would later state in her 2000 autobiography Angel on My Shoulder that she first started recreational drug use in college, it had now become a full blown addiction and her career began to suffer as a result, It all came to a head in 1983 when shortly after the release of her tenth album I’m Ready, she checked into a rehab facility, where she received much needed treatment for a number of months.

Natalie Cole would soon return to musical prominence with the release of her 1987 album Everlasting. That album featured the commercially successful singles “Jump Start,” “I Live for Your Love” and a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song “Pink Cadillac.” In 1989 she released another successful record Good to Be Back, which featured the hit single “Miss You Like Crazy.”

The most widely known and commercially successful work of Natalie Cole’s career came in the form of her 1991 album Unforgettable… with Love. It was a project close to her heart, as it was made up of covers of standards that her late father Nat King Cole had used to perform. The standout song from the album was the very last track “Unforgettable,” which was a duet with her late father, thanks of course to the marvels of modern technology. The David Foster produced song won the 1992 Grammy award for Record of the Year, and the album as a whole won for Album of the Year.

Natalie Cole would continue to release more music over the years, and would even try her hand at acting; appearing on television shows over the years like Touched By an Angel, Law & Order: SVU, and Grey’s Anatomy.

In 2008 Natalie Cole announced that she had been diagnosed with Hepatitus C, a liver disease she attributes to her prior drug use. Shortly thereafter, she suffered kidney failure. She famously went on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2009 appealing to the audience for a kidney donation. A donation she would receive, granting her the gift of life up until just last week.

So with the somber news of the passing of Natalie Cole coming to us over the New Year’s holiday, this week we take a moment to remember the glorious life and career of the late songstress. Natalie Cole was, is, and will forever be, unforgettable.

Natalie Cole With Nat King Cole 

“Unforgettable” (1991 Duet Version)

From Unforgetible….With Love

Elektra Records