In 2015 there was a shocking amount of celebrity music deaths and when I heard the news of Natalie Cole on New Year’s Day I hoped it wasn’t going to be another year like the one before, but it turns out that Natalie passed away late on New Year’s Eve.
Natalie never wanted to be famous in the wake of her father, she wanted to make it on her own merit and did just that.
She was born in February 1950 in Los Angeles, her father needs no introduction, but her mother was Maria Hawkins Ellington a former singer with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. After she graduated she educated herself musically on Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin which disappointed club owners when she made her first appearances because they were hoping she’d sing like her father, however, a local Chicago producer, Chuck Jackson spotted her and agreed to record some songs with her. once recorded they touted her around to various record label who all turned her down with the exception of one, Capitol records, the same label her father had been signed to.
Her first success came in 1975 when her debut album, Inseparable was release and was boosted by the lead single, This Will Be, a song co-written by Chuck Jackson and turned down by Aretha Franklin. It reached number six in the States and only 32 over here despite much radio play. Over the next 12 years she released 21 singles, most of which made the Billboard singles chart, but nothing in the UK. Even her cover of Elton John’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds failed to make any chart.
In the UK she really made her name in the late eighties with hit singles like Jump Start, I Miss You Like Crazy, a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Pink Cadillac and the delightful 1988 hit I Live for Your Love. With the aid of modern technology, in 1991 David Foster recorded Natalie doing a version her father’s 1950 hit Unforgettable and paired it with his original vocal to make it sound like a newly recorded duet. ‘They’ were rewarded with a number 19 hit. Her final UK hit came the following year with a cover of Ray Noble’s The Very Thought of You.
Natalie married and divorced three times and over the years had done, what she called recreational drugs beginning in 1975 whilst attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was arrested in Ontario, Canada later the same year. The recreational became serious and in her 2000 autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, she revealed much about her battle which eventually included heroin and crack cocaine.
In 2008 she gave in interview to People magazine and revealed a little of her past, “I was a heroin addict, sharing needles with the crowd I was with. At the time, I was having fun. I didn’t know. Then, 25 years later after a routine blood test, my doctor tells me, ‘You have hepatitis C’ my life crumbled before my eyes. I never had symptoms. I didn’t know anything about it. Would I still have a career? Was I going to die? How long did I have? I was devastated. I had to let it sink in for six weeks while they ran more tests.”
Throughout the 2000s she continued to tour and make many TV appearance including, in 2009, an appearance on American Idol singing Something’s Gotta Give. In December 2015 her health took a turn for the worst and she cancelled a number of dates and ended up in a Los Angeles hospital where she died on New Year’s Eve. The cause of death was given as congestive heart failure.
Natalie was nominated for numerous Grammy Awards over the years and won her first in 1976 for Best New Artist and Best R&B Vocal Performance.