Natalie Cole, the Grammy-winning singer whose hits included a cover of "Unforgettable" and "Pink Cadillac" and who overcame battles with substance abuse and the long shadow of her famous father to earn worldwide success of her own, has died at age 65.
Natalie Cole died Thursday night at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles "due to complications from ongoing health issues," according to a statement from her family.
The family's statement said Cole died on Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles from "ongoing health issues."
Cole's career spanned five decades in the R&B, soul, jazz and pop genres. In 2015, she had canceled appearances citing medical reasons.
"It is with heavy hearts that we bring to you all the news of our Mother and sister's passing," the Cole family statement said. "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."
The daughter of Nat "King" Cole built a chart-topping career with hits such as "This Will Be," "Inseparable" and "Our Love." She fought health problems for years and received a kidney transplant in 2009 after developing hepatitis, which she blamed on past intravenous drug use.
"I think that I am a walking testimony that you can have scars," she told CBS Sunday Morning in 2006. "You can go through turbulent times and still have victory in your life."
Natalie Cole died Thursday evening at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles due to complications from ongoing health issues, her family said in a statement. Besides early problems with drug abuse, she battled hepatitis C and later had a kidney transplant.
"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," read the statement from her son, Robert Yancy, and sisters, Timolin and Casey Cole.
Natalie Cole recently had to cancel planned tour stops, including one in Louisville and one in New York due to illness, according to multiple reports.
Cole won nine Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year in 1992 for "Unforgettable ... With Love," a virtual duet made with the recordings of her late father.
"We've lost a wonderful, highly cherished artist and our heartfelt condolences go out to Natalie's family, friends, her many collaborators, as well as to all who have been entertained by her exceptional talent," said Neil Portnow, President and CEO of The Recording Academy.
Nat "King" Cole died of lung cancer in 1965 at age 45. Natalie was 15 at the time of her father's death. He was already a star in the music industry, and rose to even greater heights in the 1950s and 1960s, when Natalie was born to the R&B legend and Maria Ellington Cole, a onetime vocalist, who died in 2012 at the age of 89.
Inspired by her father's musical gift, Cole began her own career as an R&B singer but later gravitated toward smooth pop and jazz genres.
Her first album, 1975's "Inseparable," won two Grammys — one for best new artist and one for best female R&B vocal performance for the hit "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)."
"Natalie possessed one of those magical voices that grabbed you from the first note. It could sound like honey, but when she wanted to belt, she could keep up with the best of them," said Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer of the Grammy Awards. "In a way, and not just in lineage, Natalie was the connector between the great singers of her father and Ella's generation, and the great female voices who were to dominate in the last 25 years."
Through technology, Cole's voice was spliced with her father's for the 1991 album, "Unforgettable ... With Love," which included versions of some of his best-known songs, including "That Sunday That Summer," "Too Young" and "Mona Lisa."
That album sold some 14 million copies and won six Grammys.
While recording the album, Cole told The Associated Press that she had to "throw out every R&B lick that I had ever learned and every pop trick I had ever learned."
"With him, the music was in the background and the voice was in the front," she said.
Cole also worked as an actress, with appearances on TV's "Touched by an Angel" and "Grey's Anatomy" and was nominated for an Emmy in 1992 for a televised performance of her father's songs.
Cole's forte and great passion, though, was performing live.
"I still love recording and still love the stage," she said on her website in 2008, "but like my dad, I have the most fun when I am in front of that glorious orchestra or that kick-butt big band."
Natalie Cole was born at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, the daughter of crooner Nat King Cole and former Duke Ellington Orchestra singer Maria Hawkins Ellington, and raised in the affluent Hancock Park district of Los Angeles. Regarding her childhood, Cole referred to her family as "the black Kennedys" and was exposed to many great singers of jazz, soul and blues. At the age of 6, 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).
Her paternal uncle Freddy Cole is a singer and pianist with numerous albums and awards. Cole enrolled in Northfield School, an elite New England preparatory school before 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 transferred briefly 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.
Natalie and Carole Cole in 1975 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. Clubs initially welcomed her 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 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 such as "This Will Be", "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" 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". Cole was the first female artist to have two platinum albums in one year. To capitalize on her fame, Cole starred on her own TV special, which attracted such celebrities as Earth, Wind & Fire, and also appeared on the TV special, "Sinatra and Friends." In 1978, Cole 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 and reportedly stayed there for a period of six months.
Following her release, she signed with the Atco imprint Modern Records and released Dangerous, which started a slow resurgence for Cole in terms of record sales and chart success. In 1987, she changed to EMI-Manhattan Records and released the 'album Everlasting, 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 and become Cole's first platinum album in ten years. In 1989, she released her follow-up to Everlasting, Good to Be Back, which produced the number two hit "Miss You Like Crazy"; it also achieved international success, reaching the top ten in the United Kingdom.
Cole released her best-selling album with 1991's Unforgettable... with Love on Elektra Records, 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 7 million copies in the U.S. alone and won 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.
In 1999, Cole returned to her 1980s-era urban contemporary recording style with the release of Snowfall on the Sahara on June and second holiday album The Magic of Christmas on October, which recorded with London Symphony Orchestra. 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. She also released the compilation Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 to fulfill her contract with Elektra. She changed to Verve Records and released two albums. 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, including Frank Sinatra. The album later resulted in Grammy wins for Cole.
In April 2012, she appeared as a Pennington Great Performers series artist with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.
Television and film career Cole carved out a secondary career in acting. She also appeared several times in live concerts or other music related programs, including the 1988 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 the 65th Academy Awards performing a medley of two Oscar-nominated songs: "Run to You" and "I Have Nothing", both originally performed by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.
Cole 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 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.
Cole also made several appearances in feature films, most recently in the Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely. She 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.
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, The Real Housewives of New York City.
In February 2012, Cole appeared as a guest judge on the fourth series of reality competition series RuPaul's Drag Race. The bottom two competitors lip-synced to her song This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) to decide who would stay and who would be eliminated.
On Father's Day, 2013, Natalie was in Tina Sinatra's Father's Day Special on Sirius Radio. It also featured Deana Martin, Monica Mancini and Daisy Torme, all reminiscing about their famous fathers.
Cole was married three times. She married Marvin Yancy, songwriter, producer and former member of the '70s R&B group The Independents on July 31, 1976. She had a son, Robert Adam "Robbie" Yancy (born October 15, 1977); he is now a musician who toured with her. 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. Cole and Yancy got divorced in 1980 before Yancy died of a heart attack in 1985, aged 34. In 1989, Cole married record producer and former drummer for the band Rufus, Andre Fischer; they were divorced in 1995. In 2001, Cole married bishop Kenneth Dupree; they divorced in 2004.
Cole was active in the Afghan World Foundation cause, supporting Sonia Nassery Cole (no relation).
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, including heroin and crack cocaine. Cole said she began recreational drug use while attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was arrested in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for possession of heroin in 1975. Cole continued to spiral out of control – including one incident during which she refused to evacuate a burning building, and another during which her young son Robert nearly drowned in the family swimming pool while she was on a drug binge. She entered rehab in 1983.
Her autobiography was released in conjunction with 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.
Death Cole canceled several events in December 2015 due to illness. It was reported on January 1, 2016, that Cole had died on December 31 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Her family stated that at the time of her death, Cole had "ongoing health issues". According to Cole's publicist, Maureen O'Connor, the singer's death was the result of congestive heart failure.
Cole's son Robert Yancy, and her sisters, Timolin and Casey Cole, offered the following comment. "Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived ... with dignity, strength and honour. Our beloved mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain unforgettable in our hearts forever."
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