Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole performing in 2005
Background information
Birth name Natalie Maria Cole
Born February 6, 1950 (1950-02-06) (age 61)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres R&B, soul, pop, soft rock, jazz, quiet storm, adult contemporary
Occupations Singer, songwriter, pianist, actress
Instruments Voice, Piano
Years active 1955–present
Labels Capitol (1975–1981)
Epic (1982–1984)
Modern (1984–1986)
EMI-Manhattan (1986–1990)
Elektra (1991–2001)
Verve (2001–2007)
DMI / Rhino (2008–2010)
Associated acts Nat King Cole

Natalie Maria Cole (born February 6, 1950), is an American singer, songwriter and performer. The daughter of jazz legend Nat King Cole, Cole rode to musical success in the mid-1970s as an R&B artist with the hits "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)", "Inseparable" and "Our Love". After a period of failing sales and performances due to a heavy drug addiction, Cole reemerged 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.


Early life

Natalie Cole was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of crooner Nat King Cole and former Duke Ellington Orchestra singer Maria Cole. Raised in the affluent Hancock Park district of Los Angeles;[1] regarding her childhood, Cole has referred to her family as "the black Kennedys" and was exposed to many great singers of jazz, soul, and blues. At the age of six Natalie sang on her father's Christmas album and later began performing at age 11.

Cole grew up with older adopted sister Carole "Cookie" (1944–2009) (her mother Maria's younger sister's daughter); adopted brother Nat "Kelly" Cole (1959–95), and younger twin sisters Timolin and Casey (born 1961).[2][3]

Her paternal uncle Freddy Cole is a singer and pianist with numerous albums and awards. Cole attended Northfield Mount Hermon School at age 15, afer her father died of lung cancer in February 1965. Soon afterwards she began having a difficult relationship with her mother. She enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She briefly transferred to University of Southern California where she pledged the Upsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She later transferred back to the University of Massachusetts, where she majored in Child Psychology and minored in German graduating in 1972.

Music career

Early career

Following graduation, Cole, who grew up listening to a variety of artists from soul artists such as Aretha Franklin to psychedelic rock icon Janis Joplin, began singing at small clubs with her band, Black Magic. Initially welcomed to the clubs due to her being Nat King Cole's daughter only to be 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, who then approached her to do records. After cutting several records together, they passed off the music to several record labels. Most labels turned them down with one ironic exception. Capitol Records, her father's label, heard the records and agreed to sign her.

Cole, Yancy and Jackson went into studios in Los Angeles to polish the recordings they had shipped, resulting in the release of Cole's debut album, Inseparable, which included songs that reminded listeners of Aretha Franklin. In fact, Franklin later contended that songs like "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)", "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. Due to the media's billing of Cole as the "new Aretha Franklin", it inadvertently started a rivalry between the two singers.

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 (She's a Different Lady)" and the jazz-influenced "Mr. Melody".

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, Cole issued her fourth release and second platinum album, Thankful, which included another signature Cole hit, "Our Love". To capitalize on her fame, Cole starred on her own TV special, which attracted such celebrities as Earth, Wind & Fire, and in 1978, 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 detour and resurgence

Following the release of her eighth album, 1980's Don't Look Back, Cole's career began to take a detour. While Cole scored an adult contemporary hit with the soft rock ballad "Someone That I Used To Love" off the album, the album itself failed to go gold. In 1981, Cole's personal problems 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 reportedly staying there for a period of six months.

Following her release, she signed with the Atco imprint, Modern Records, releasing Dangerous, which started a slow resurgence for Cole in terms of record sales and chart success. In 1987, she released the Everlasting album, 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 becoming Cole's first platinum album in ten years. In 1989, she released her follow-up to Everlasting, Good to Be Back on Elektra, which produced the number two hit, "Miss You Like Crazy", which also achieved international success reaching the top ten in the United Kingdom.

Cole released her best-selling album with 1991's Unforgettable... with Love, which saw Cole singing songs her famous father recorded, nearly 20 years after she initially had refused to cover her father's songs during live concerts. Cole produced vocal arrangements for the songs, with piano accompaniment by her uncle Ike Cole. Cole's label released an interactive duet between Cole and her father 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 seven million copies in the U.S. alone winning several Grammys including Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance for the top song.

Cole followed that success 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.

Later works

In 1999, Cole returned to her 1980s-era urban contemporary recording style with the release of Snowfall on the Sahara. 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. Her next album, 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 such as Frank Sinatra. The album later resulted in Grammy wins for Cole.

Television and film

Cole has carved out a secondary career in acting. She has also appeared several times in live concerts or other music related programs, including the 1998 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute with sidemen Richard Campbell, Jeffrey Worrell, Eddie Cole and Dave Joyce. In 1990, she (along with jazz vocalist Al Jarreau) sang the song "Mr. President" (written by Ray Reach, Mike Loveless and Joe Sterling) on HBO's Comic Relief special, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. After Johnny Mathis appeared on a special of Cole's in 1980, the two kept in contact, and in 1992, he invited Cole to be a part of his television special titled "A Tribute To Nat Cole" for BBC-TV in England. It had high viewer ratings and was successful. From that project, an album with the same name was released, and featured several medley and solo numbers.

In 1992, following the success of the Unforgettable: With Love album, PBS broadcast a special based on the album. Unforgettable, With Love: Natalie Cole Sings the Songs of Nat "King" Cole received emmy nominations for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program; and Cole received a nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance, losing to Bette Midler.

In 1993, she was among the Guests of Honor attending Wrestlemania IX at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada. She was interviewed by television staff after the conclusion of the Money Incorporated vs Megamaniacs tag team match regarding her upcoming work. The same year she performed at 65th Academy Awards performing medley of two Oscar nominated songs: Run to You and I Have Nothing, both originally performed by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.

Cole has made a number of dramatic appearances on television, including guest appearances on I'll Fly Away, Touched by an Angel, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2006, she made a memorable guest appearance on the popular ABC show Grey's Anatomy as a terminally ill patient. Her character visited Seattle Grace Hospital to have a fork removed from her neck that her husband had stabbed her with during a mishap; the couple had been having sex in public.[4]

Cole has also made several appearances in feature films, most recently in the Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely. She has appeared in several made-for-TV movies, most notably as the lead in Lily in Winter. Cole was featured on Macy Gray's album Big, singing "Finally Make Me Happy".

In 2001 she starred as herself in Livin' for Love: the Natalie Cole Story, for which she received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television, Mini-Series of Dramatic Special.

She also sang the national anthem with the Atlanta University Center Chorus at Super Bowl XXVIII.

On December 2, 2006, Cole performed for the first time in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, as part of the annual Cayman Jazz Fest.[5]

On the February 5, 2007 episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Cole sang "I Say a Little Prayer" at a benefit dinner for Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson).

She can also be seen in the last scene of Nas' music video for "Can't Forget About You". The song uses a sample of her father's song "Unforgettable". Cole is sitting at a piano in a cabaret-style lounge mouthing her father's song with Nas standing beside her.

Natalie Cole also performed "Something's Gotta Give" on American Idol on April 29, 2009.

In September 2010, Cole performed with Andrea Bocelli in a concert at the Kodak Theatre, for his album My Christmas, in which she recorded a duet with him, and on December 10–13, 2009, she appeared with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in their annual Christmas concerts. Both were videotaped for presentation on PBS in December 2010.

On July 22, 2011 Cole appeared on the reality television series, Real Housewives of New York City.


NOTE: this filmography is not yet completed

Year Title Role Notes
1990 "Comic Relief" (HBO Special) (performed)
1992 A Tribute To Nat King Cole (BBC Special) (performed)
1997 Cats Don't Dance Sawyer (singing voice)
1999 Freak City Eleanor Sorrell
2004 De-Lovely Musical performer
2006 Grey's Anatomy Terminally ill patient
2011 The Real Housewives of Miami Cameo Season 1
2011 The Real Housewives of New York City Cameo Season 4

Personal life

Cole has been married three times. She married Marvin Yancy on July 31, 1976, she has a son Robert Adam "Robbie" Yancy (born October 1977); he is now a musician who tours with her. Cole just announced on Wendy Williams that her son Robbie just recently got married. Marvin was her producer, and an ordained Baptist minister who helped reintroduce her to religion. Under his influence, Cole changed from a lapsed Episcopalian to become a devout Baptist.[6] Cole and Yancy divorced in 1980; Yancy died of a heart attack in 1985, aged 34. In 1989, Cole married record producer Andre Fischer; they divorced in 1995. In 2001, Cole married bishop Kenneth Dupree; they divorced in 2004.[7]

Cole has been active in the Afghan World Foundation cause, supporting Sonia Nassery Cole.[8]

Drug abuse and recovery

In 2000, Cole released an autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, which described her battle with drugs during much of her life.

  • In the book, Cole admitted to using heroin and crack cocaine.
  • Cole said she began recreational drug use while attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
  • She also disclosed that she was arrested in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for possession of heroin in 1975.
  • Cole continued to spiral out of control - including one incident where she refused to evacuate a burning building, and another where her young son Robert nearly drowned in the family swimming pool while she was on a drug binge.[9] She did eventually enter rehab in 1983.[10]

In concert with the release of the book, her autobiography was turned into a made-for-TV movie, Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story, which aired December 10, 2000 on NBC and re-aired October 26, 2011 on Centric TV [CTRC].

Health problems

On July 16, 2008, Cole announced that she was diagnosed with hepatitis C (a disease affecting the liver) likely caused by her drug use: "I've been so fortunate to have learned so much from my past experiences. I am embraced by the love and support of my family and friends; I am committed to my belief in myself and in my abiding faith to meet this challenge with a heartfelt optimism and determination. This is how I intend to deal with this current challenge in my life." Dr. Graham Woolf, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA/Cedars Sinai Medical Center, said that Cole "had a terrific response to her medication and is now virus negative. This gives her an increased chance of cure. But, she has also suffered significant side effects from the anti-viral medicine, which is the only FDA authorized treatment for hepatitis C. Her side effects include fatigue, muscle aches and dehydration but she is recovering from these. On September 19, 2008 she was rushed to the hospital due to her Hepatitis C medications.[11][12]

Cole has also had struggles with kidney disease. Before receiving a kidney transplant on May 20, 2009, Cole had been receiving kidney dialysis three times a week.[13] During her March 31, 2009 appearance on Larry King Live "dozens of emails flooded the CNN studio" with offers for replacement kidneys.[14]

As of June 2009, Cole had received a kidney transplant. The news of the organ came on the same day her sister Carole died from cancer. Natalie attended the memorial services and continues to heal and grow stronger with her new kidney.

She made a triumphant stage comeback on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in LA. In December 2009 she achieved a life long dream of performing at the Christmas Extravaganza with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Selective awards and recognitions

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Cole has received nine awards from twenty-one nominations.[15]

Year Nominated work Award Result
1976 Natalie Cole Best New Artist Won
"This Will Be" Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Won
1977 Natalie Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
"Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady)" Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Won
1978 "I've Got Love on My Mind" Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
1979 "Our Love" Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
1980 I Love You So Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
1988 Everlasting Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
1990 Good to Be Back Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
"We Sing Praises" (with Deniece Williams) Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal Nominated
1992 Unforgettable… with Love Album of the Year Won
"Unforgettable" (with Nat King Cole) Record of the Year Won
Best Traditional Pop Performance Won
"Long 'Bout Midnight" Best Jazz Vocal Performance Nominated
1994 Take a Look Best Jazz Vocal Performance Won
1997 "When I Fall in Love" (with Nat King Cole) Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Won
Stardust Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
2003 "Better Than Anything" (with Diana Krall) Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Nominated
Ask a Woman Who Knows Best Jazz Vocal Album Nominated
2007 "Day Dreaming" Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
2009 Still Unforgettable Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Won

Other Awards

Natalie Cole Awards[16]
Category Title Result Notes
2002 and 2009 Best Jazz Artist NAACP Image Awards Winner
2000 Best Actress -
Television Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special
NAACP Image Awards Winner Livin for Love:
The Natalie Cole Story
1999 Hitmaker Award Songwriters Hall of Fame *Winner*
1993 Lifetime Musical Achievement The George and Ira Gershwin Award Winner
1991 Favorite Artist - Adult Contemporary American Music Awards Winner
1978 Favorite Female Artist - Soul / Rhythm & Blues American Music Awards Winner
1977 Favorite Female Artist - Soul / Rhythm & Blues American Music Awards Winner


See also


External links

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