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Father, Daughter Had Burning Desire For Music

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
Nat 'King' Cole

The idiom 'The chip doesn't fall far from the block' relates in a very real way to the lives and careers of Nat 'King' Cole and his daughter Natalie Cole. The younger Cole passed away at age 65 on New Year's Eve, from what was initially diagnosed as 'congestive heart failure'. There perhaps has never been a closer father-daughter relationship, and surely in the entertainment business, there was never a greater bond of that type.

As early as age six, Natalie was being taken by her dad to his performances, and to Capitol Records where he recorded, to do a little Christmas ditty, titled I'm goodwill, your Christmas Spirit. He had seen in her from that age, like he saw in himself, this burning desire for music and ensured that she acquired early maximum exposure. Natalie was the first of Nat's five children (two were adoptions - Carole and Kelly). He fathered her late in life - at age 31 - and understandably showed a deep interest in her. Interestingly, Nat Cole, who is widely regarded as the king of romantic ballads, never fathered another child until over a decade later. They were twins, Timolin and Casey.

It was about this time in 1961 that the 11-year-old Natalie got her first real exposure to a public audience. Nat was in the process of bringing a musical to Broadway, in which he would sing a series of his hits.


Natalie thought that this was the opportunity she had waited for. In her autobiography she wrote: "I went to him with my brash 11-year-old confidence and told him that I wanted to be in the show with him. He was probably pretty sceptical about the idea, but he agreed to let me audition for him and some of his production people."

On the show, Natalie performed, along with her dad, a song titled It's A Bore, which received rave reviews in Down Beat Magazine: "The most appealing bit in the first half was It's A Bore, which Papa Cole shared with his daughter, 11-year-old Natalie. The child came across with poise and aplomb in singing and spoken lines and with every mark of a professional," the magazine remarked.

Natalie had every reason to be proud of her dad. It was in his footsteps that she trod and it was his illustrious career that shed light on her emergence as a singing star. Nat King Cole was at one time the most popular recording artiste in America and one of the richest as well. He was the first black man to own a home in the previously all-white neighbourhood of Hancock Park in Los Angeles, California. This enormous popularity immediately brought Natalie into the spotlight at school, church, public functions or wherever she went, once it was recognised that she was the daughter of the great man.

'The daughter of' became almost like a title for her, and kept following her around from schooldays and into her mid-teens, much to her displeasure. But sometimes one has to part company with something one loves dearly in order to move on in life, and Natalie, although adoring her father, was beginning to realise that the title was becoming a stumbling block. She was quoted as saying, "I felt as though I didn't have an identity of my own, and wasn't sure whether people liked me for me, or because of who my dad was."

However, as the years rolled by and Natalie became a star in her own right, the title 'The daughter of' no longer mattered.