Tue | May 24, 2016

Natalie in love

Published:Sunday | October 27, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Natalie Cole

Singer uses the heart to become one of the biggest-selling women of all time

On September 1, The Music Diaries rehashed the very exciting story about Natalie Cole's miraculous escape from death in a fire at the Vegas Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas on February 10, 1981. Eight persons died and 253 were seriously injured, some of whom eventually died from lung damage associated with smoke inhalation, while Cole escaped unscathed, although being exposed to the same conditions.

The last person to be rescued, she believed that God intervened to save her life, and rejoiced after her escape with the recording, Angel On My Shoulder, the lines of which ran in part:

I never thought I'd ever make it, can't believe the hell I've been through

Couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn't know what to do.

I've been through the rain, I've been through the fire, there was something I never knew,

I had an angel on my shoulder with a plan for me divine.

Must be an angel on my shoulder, who was right there all the time.

That was just about the only reference made in the article to her music and her vast catalogue of hits, assembled in a dazzling career, which saw her putting out over 20 albums, many of which received accreditation.

Cole's earliest influence in music was her father, the legendary and famous singer, Nat King Cole, who taught her gibberish and crazy rhyme-and-sound children songs, and took her along with him to many of his concerts.

In her autobiography, Cole speaks in glowing terms about the man to whom she was inextricably attached. That attachment was amplified by the fact that her mother, Maria Cole, was somewhat unconcerned in terms of providing nurturing and motherly advice.

Motherly role

In many instances, the role of mother in Cole's life was taken over by nannies and maids in a California household that was blessed with a rich lifestyle, occasioned by Nat Cole's enormous income.

There was always music in Cole's home and her father, in his eclectic manner, would bring home various types for her to listen to.

As a 4-year-old in 1954, Cole would try to catch every note on a tape recorder her father had bought her.

"I'd read the Childcraft poems or my own poetry into the recorder and put music to the words, and then I'd make up little melodies to go along with them," Cole recalled.

At that time, and even up to age 15, when her father died, singing was not something Cole thought of as being a profession.

Cole's first recording was a little Christmas ditty, titled I'm Good Will, Your Christmas Spirit, at age 6, for Capitol Records, the label on which her father sang.

A lady had written a Christmas story and song and asked Nat if his daughter wanted to do the singing, to which he agreed.

Sitting on her father's lap, Cole was coached on the recording and gained her first experience in studio.

The eldest of Nat Cole's three children (the others were a pair of twin girls, in addition to two adoptions, a boy named Kelly, and a girl named Carole), Natalie was drawn to the piano.

In 1961, she appeared in a Broadway musical with Nat which earned the commendable review: "The most appealing bit, which Papa Cole shared with his daughter, 11-year-old Natalie. The child came across with poise and aplomb and with every mark of a professional."

She rode through the remainder of the 1960s and early 1970s, concentrating on schooling, black consciousness, getting into drugs, troubles with the law and being devastated by her father's death.

The real turning point in Natalie Cole's life came when she obtained the services of the songwriting/production team of Marvin Yancy and Chuck Jackson, who obtained for her, a recording contract with the well-established Capitol Records.

A four-record demo was presented, two of which, I Love Him So Much, dedicated to Yancy who later became her husband, and You, particularly impressed them.

The album, done in 1975, had eight other cuts and was spiced up with the title cut, Inseparable; and the Grammy-winning song, This Will Be (best R&B Performance, Female), an award previously held by Aretha Franklin for nine consecutive years.

At the same award ceremony, Cole received her second Grammy in the Best New Artiste category.

Her second album Natalie, in 1976, went gold within a month of its release, while she earned her third Grammy, once again for best R&B Female Performance with her co-written Sophisticated Lady. Mr Melody was also a big hit at the time.

Capitol released Cole's third album, the million-selling Unpredictable, in 1977. The cuts contained therein, tell the story of a woman deeply in love: This Heart, Still in Love, I Can't Break Away, and the intensely romantic, I've Got Love on My Mind.

Gave birth

She gave birth to her son, Robert Yancy in October 1977, but while pregnant, recorded her fourth album, Thankful, which went platinum and gave her the distinction of being the first female artiste to have two platinum releases in the same year.

From that album, the cut, Our Love became her fifth consecutive No.1 single. She followed up with others that included Natalie Live in 1978, I Love You So (1979), Don't Look Back (1980), Happy Love (1981), I'm Ready (1982), Dangerous (1985), and Good to Be Back (1989), which contained the top-10 hit, Miss You Like Crazy.

She has an impressive resume of over eight Grammies, eight gold albums and three platinum albums.

But perhaps the crowning achievement of Natalie's career was her 1981 album, Unforgettable: With Love, which contained the electronically produced 1981 duet with her father - Unforgettable: With Love. It perhaps expresses unequivocally, how she felt about her dad.

Unforgettable, that's what you are

Unforgettable, though near or far

Like a song of love that clings to me

How the thought of you does things to me

Never before has someone been more

Unforgettable in every way

And forevermore that's how you'll stay.