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Cole, Natalie

album pop gold hit

Cole, Natalie, R&B diva with a checkered career, and daughter of pop crooner Nat “King” Cole; b. Los Angeles, Feb. 6, 1950. As a child, Natalie Maria; Cole had the opportunity to sing with Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald, or Uncle Duke, Aunt Sarah, and Aunt Ella as she called them, in her living room. Her mother, Marie Ellington Cole, had sung in Duke Ellington’s band. Her father, Nat “King” Cole, was one of the most successful African-American performers of his generation. While this gave Natalie a head start, it also gave her a pretty tough act to follow.

After graduating with a degree in psychology from the Univ. of Mass., Natalie signed on with her father’s old label, Capitol Records. Her first album, 1974’s Inseparable produced the two chart-topping R&B hits, “This Will Be” (#6 pop) and the title track (#32 pop). The album went gold and Cole came home from the 1975 Grammy Awards with statuettes for Best New Artist and Best R&B Vocalist, Female. Natalie continued her streak of #1 R&B hits with “Sophisticated Lady (She’s a Different Lady)” (#25 pop), which won her a 1977 Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. While the singles were straight ahead R&B with a dance beat and a strong sense of swing, Cole still managed to toss in the odd standard like “Good Morning Heartache” on her albums.

Natalie continued her streak of #1 R&B singles with the gold “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” (#5 pop) from the platinum Unpredictable in 1977. Almost exactly a year later, she scored another gold, chart-topping R&B hit with “Our Love” (#10 pop) from the platinum album Thankful .

The hits began to slow down in the 1980s. In 1980, she had hit #21 with “Someone That I Used to Love.” By 1983 she had been dropped by two record companies and was in rehabilitation for drug abuse. Through the mid-1980s, Cole put out several commercially and artistically disappointing albums, finally coming back in 1987 with Everlasting . The album went gold, producing three hit singles: the #13 hits “Jump Start” and “I Live for Your Love” and a #5 cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.” Her next album yielded the #7 single “Miss You Like Crazy” and the #34 “Wild Women Do,” which was featured in the film Pretty Woman .

After 17 years as a recording artist in her own right, Cole finally felt she had earned the right to pay homage to her father without being accused of trying to ride his coattails to success. In 1991 she broached the idea with her record company, and when they weren’t interested, she moved to Elektra Records. The album, Unforgettable, with Love, became a record business phenomenon. The title track, a digitally recreated duet with her father on his 1952 hit “Unforgettable,” rose to #14 (two places shy of where her father’s version peaked), but sold gold. The album went septuple platinum and started a reevaluation of standards among the pop audience. The album won seven Grammy awards that year, of which she took home three: Album of the Year, Best Traditional Pop Performance, and Record of the Year.

Cole followed this with the gold Take a Look album in 1993. Another more traditional pop recording, it found Cole recording 18 lesser-known songs by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin. It earned her another Grammy for Best Vocal Performance. She continued her exploration of standards with Stardust, which also went gold. After a three-year break, she started to move back to more contemporary pop with 1999’s Snowfall on the Sahara collection. With 21 albums in a quarter of a century as a performer, Cole’s career has covered rock, R&B, jazz and standards, proving her one of her generation’s most versatile singers.

Cole of California [next] [back] Cole, Nat “King” (originally, Coles, Nathaniel Adams)

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