Remembering Natalie Cole
Daughter of jazz legend carried on his legacy
1/4/2016, 2:04 p.m.
(AP) — Natalie Cole is being remembered for her music and carrying on the legacy of her father, the jazz legend Nat “King” Cole, by carving out her own success with R&B hits like "Our Love" and "This Will Be" before triumphantly intertwining their legacies to make his "Unforgettable" their signature hit through technological wizardry.
While Cole was a Grammy winner in her own right, she had her greatest success in 1991 when she re-recorded her father's classic hits — with him on the track — for the album "Unforgettable ... With Love." It became a multiplatinum smash and garnered her multiple Grammy Awards, including album of the year.
Cole died Dec. 31 in Los Angeles due to complications from ongoing health issues, her family said in a statement.
"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.
"I had to hold back the tears. I know how hard she fought," said Aretha Franklin in a statement. "She fought for so long. She was one of the greatest singers of our time."
Other celebrities honored Cole on social media. In a tweet, actress Marlee Matlin called Cole a lovely songbird and a great actress, writing "she is now singing in heaven." Patti LaBelle tweeted, "She will be truly missed but her light will shine forever!"
Natalie Cole had battled drug problems and hepatitis that forced her to undergo a kidney transplant in May 2009. Cole's older sister, Carol "Cookie" Cole, died the day she received the transplant. Their brother, Nat Kelly Cole, died in 1995.
Natalie Cole was inspired by her dad at an early age and auditioned to sing with him when she was just 11 years old. She was 15 when he died of lung cancer, in 1965.
She began as an R&B singer but later gravitated toward the smooth pop and jazz standards that her father loved.
Cole's greatest success came with her 1991 album, "Unforgettable ... With Love," which paid tribute to her father with reworked versions of some of his best-known songs, including "That Sunday That Summer," ''Too Young" and "Mona Lisa."
Her voice was spliced with her dad's in the title cut, offering a delicate duet a quarter-century after his death.
The album sold some 14 million copies and won six Grammys, including album of the year as well record and song of the year for the title track duet.
While making the album, Cole told The Associated Press in 1991, 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."
I didn't shed really any real tears until the album was over," Cole said. "Then I cried a whole lot. When we started the project it was a way of reconnecting with my dad. Then when we did the last song, I had to say goodbye again."
She was also nominated for an Emmy award in 1992 for a televised performance of her father's songs.
"That was really my thank you," she told People magazine in 2006. "I owed that to him."
Another father-daughter duet, "When I Fall in Love," won a 1996 Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals, and a follow-up album, "Still Unforgettable," won for best traditional pop vocal album of 2008.
Cole made her recording debut in 1975 with "Inseparable." The music industry welcomed her with two Grammy awards in 1976 — one for best new artist and one for best female R&B vocal performance for her buoyant hit "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)."
She also worked as an actress, with appearances on TV's "Touched by an Angel" and "Grey's Anatomy."