Natalie Cole photo

Natalie Cole

Birth name:
Natalie Maria Cole
Date of Birth:
6 February 1950 Los Angeles, California, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
Growing up and living under the huge, daunting shadow of a singing icon can intimidate a son or daughter enough to want to look anywhere else to find their station in life. Those who dared to try to follow in their footsteps, such as Frank Sinatra Jr., found success branching out in other areas of music; others like the Crosby brothers, suffered from perpetual self esteem issues that led to personal tragedy; still others, like Liza Minnelli found meteoric success on their own and emulated/paralleled their famous parent's own star achievements."Sophisticated Lady" Natalie Cole fits into the last-mentioned category. Moreover, she ended up living a dream by dueting with her father, the late and great Nat 'King' Cole, through the use of modern technology, to multiple Grammy-winning glory. This would become the pinnacle of her musical success. Unlike Minnelli, however, her famous crooning parent, who broke many racial barriers during his way-too-short life in the limelight, did not live long enough to enjoy his daughter's rise to stardom, dying of lung cancer a little more than a week after Natalie's 15th birthday.Stephanie Natalie Maria Cole was born on February 6, 1950, and grew up in a heavily musical atmosphere in Los Angeles' exclusive Hancock Park area. In addition to her father, mother Maria had been a background vocalist with the Duke Ellington outfit. Natalie herself grew up surrounded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and, Frank Sinatra, who were considered family. Singing on one of her dad's Christmas albums, and performing by age 11, her father's early death brought emotional scars and perhaps induced a self-imposed lack of musical focus. The family relocated to Massachusetts and Natalie eventually took off to college, first attending and majoring in child psychology at the University of Massachusetts. The transferred to the University of Southern California before returning to her first campus and graduating in 1972. At this point, however, she decided to live her music a go again and began performing at various night spots. It was at this juncture that she gradually fell into drug addiction, including heroin use.A breakthrough for Natalie came via her early 70s association with Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, who once worked with one of Natalie's real-life idols, Aretha Franklin. A debut album in the form of "Inseparable" came out in 1975, which included her bit hit "This Will Be" (#6 on the pop charts and a multiple Grammy winner for best R&B female vocals and "best newcomer". In 1976 producer Yancy became her husband but they divorced after only a few years and following the birth of their only child, Robert Adam Yancy. Her ex-husband died in 1985.During the "disco era", milder hits with "Sophisticated Lady," "Mr. Melody," "I've Got Love on My Mind," "Our Love," "Stand By," "What You Won't Do for Love," and "Hold On" and "Nothing But a Fool" arrived, along with more platinum and gold albums. Acute drug problems, however, continued to hinder her progress and she eventually took time off time for recovery. In 1985, Natalie released, in what was the start of a comeback, her album "Dangerous" for Modern Records; she later lost her contract. Such as late 80s pop singles included "Jump Start My Heart," "Miss You Like Crazy", "Pink Cadillac" and "I Live for Your Love" kept her visible and on the charts.In the midst of her ebb-and-flow R&B success, Natalie decided in 1991 to record a new CD, "Unforgettable...with Love," paying homage to her late father. With the help and encouragement of family, she re-arranged and re-recorded some of his greatest songs in the same studio that he recorded (Capitol Studios), used some of the same musicians and even recreated one of his signature songs, the title tune "Unforgettable," with a technological effect that appeared as if they were dueting together. Never before or since has this been pulled off and marketed so successfully. The CD, which met with some derision (some critics felt she was grasping for straws in a career that was going backwards), was an instant "easy listening" sensation. Not only did it sell well over 30 million copies, it would become an eight-time over platinum winner. It earned a armload of awards on Grammy night -- including "Album of the Year" and "Record of the Year".Over time Natalie began covering jazz standards. A jazz CD in 1994 also captured a Grammy (she has racked up a total of eight Grammy awards thus far). Like her Dad, she has become a fond Christmas commodity both on TV and in the record stores. In addition, she branched out into occasional acting roles, including the social drama Lily in Winter (1994) (TV) and the autobiographical feature film Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story (2000) (TV) in which she herself played the ups and downs of her own turbulent life. She has also made infrequent acting appearances on such shows as "I'll Fly Away," "Law & Order," "Touched by an Angel" and "Grey's Anatomy".Natalie's private life, however, continued to show vulnerability. A second marriage to drummer Andre Fisher of Rufus fame also ended in divorce and she later married and divorced a third time to Kenneth Dupree, a bishop. Natalie's older adopted sister, Carol Cole earned a modicum of distinction as an actress and celebrity for a time, but her adopted brother, Nat Kelly Cole, briefly an actor, died in 1995 at age 36 of AIDS-related complications.Firmly content wrapping her glorious vocals around yesteryear's standards, Natalie's star more and more possesses the warm, fuzzy glow and velvet-like smoothness so reminiscent of her famous dad. Recently, however, she has again had to battle illness -- this time a life-threatening liver virus, Hepatitis C, which laid dormant from her early days of hard drug use. Through it all, Natalie's continues to vocally shine, what with the recent release of the CD "Still Unforgettable, in which she nurses the classics as only she can and "duets" once again with her dad, 'Nat King' Cole' on "Walking My Baby Back Home".
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