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Natalie Cole (born Natalie Maria Cole; February 6, 1950) is an American singer, songwriter and performer. She achieved success in her early career as an R&B star, but smoothly changed her repertoire toward a more pop and jazz oriented musical style in the early 1990s. She has won nine Grammy Awards.

Early life

Natalie Maria Cole was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of crooner Nat King Cole and former Duke Ellington Orchestra singer Maria Cole. Raised in the affluent Hancock Park district of Los Angelesmarker; regarding her childhood Cole has referred to her family as "the black Kennedys" and was exposed to many great singers of jazz, soul, and blues. At the age of six Natalie sang on her father's Christmas album and later began performing at age 11.

Cole grew up with older adopted sister Carole "Cookie" (1944-2009) (her mother Maria's younger sister's daughter); adopted brother Nat "Kelly" Cole (1959-1995), and younger twin sisters Timolin and Casey (born 1961).

Her paternal uncle Freddy Cole is an singer and pianist with numerous CDs and awards. Cole was 15 years old and attending an east coast boarding school, the Northfield Mount Hermon Schoolmarker in Northfield, Massachusettsmarker, when her father died of lung cancer in February 1965. Soon afterwards she began having a difficult relationship with her mother. She enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She briefly transferred back to University of Southern Californiamarker and there she pledged the Epsilion Theta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.. She transferred back to the University of Massachusetts, where she majored in Child Psychology and minored in German. Cole graduated in 1972.

Music career

Early career

Even before she graduated from college, Cole had already began singing on weekends at a small club called "The Pub". She was welcomed on the club circuit in hope of singing her father's music but tried to stay as far from his music as managers would allow. In fact, it was her own style of grit and soul that attracted R&B producers Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy at a nightclub called Mr. Kelley's. This partnership soon took the industry by storm with the release of her first album Inseparable with soul number one hits "This Will Be", and title track "Inseparable". In 1975 Natalie was awarded a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "This Will Be" and Best New Artist Grammy for the album Inseparable. Her high-power-style was often compared to Aretha Franklin and some critics even referred to her as the new queen of soul. In 1976 Natalie was again awarded Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Sophisticated Lady" and a 1977 Best Female Vocalist American Music Award for gold certified "I've Got Love on My Mind". Natalie gathered two platinum albums ("Unpredictable", "Thankful") and another gold single "Our Love" in 1977. By 1978 she would star in her first television special on CBS to rave reviews and garnered another gold album in the classic "Natalie Live" set. Plenty of hits including "I Cant Say No", "Party Lights", "I'm Catching Hell", "Be Thankful", "Annie May", "Sorry", "Stand By" among many others followed as well as more gold albums with 1979's "I Love You So" and 1980's "Were The Best Of Friends" with Peabo Bryson.

Career detour and resurgence

Cole's career paused in the early 1980s as she dealt with her severe drug problems. By 1985, Cole was back in good health, and began a comeback with album Dangerous, released on the Modern label and included hits "A Little Bit Of Heaven" and title track which became a number one dance anthem. In 1987, she released Everlasting (on EMI Manhattan) which sold over a million copies in the U.S.marker, and won Cole a Soul Train Award for Female Single of the Year for the #1 R&B ballad "I Live for Your Love". The album also included hit singles "Jump Start," and a remake of Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac" (#5 Pop, #16 AC, and #1 Dance, #5 UK). Singles "Everlasting" and a remake of her father's signature song, "When I Fall In Love" also had modest success on charts. In 1989, her next album, Good To Be Back, gave her more chart success with "Miss You Like Crazy" (#1 both R&B and AC, and #7 Pop, plus #2 UK), "Wild Women Do", and "I Do" with Freddie Jackson, and "Starting Over Again".

Unforgettable...with Love

Cole may be best remembered for her 1991 album, Unforgettable... with Love, featuring her vocal arrangements of her father's greatest hits with piano accompaniment by her uncle Ike Cole. She sang 22 songs from Nat King Cole's collection including "The Very Thought of You", "Mona Lisa", Route 66" and with a little help from technology, performed the title song Unforgettable as a duet with her father using her father's original recording. The album was a great success; selling over 7 million copies in the United States alone, and won Cole several Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. The album featured a duet, the title track, with her father, created by splicing a recording of his vocals into the track. As a single, it reached #14 on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 chart and #10 on the R&B chart, and went gold and video single six times platinum.

Additional albums

Cole released several more hit Jazz cd's including gold "Take A Look" and platinum "Stardust"; both cd's won Grammies. She later appeared on the pop singles charts with "A Smile Like Yours" in 1997. Her albums continue to sell well and she is considered one of the core artists of the smooth jazz format, garnering frequent airplay on smooth jazz radio stations with both her classic songs and her newer material.

In 1995, she performed in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True a musical performance of the popular story at Lincoln Center to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The performance was originally broadcast on Turner Network Television (TNT), and issued on CD and video in 1996.

Her 1999 album Snowfall on the Sahara marked a return to the easy adult-contemporary soul that categorized her late-1980s style and included the hit "Say You Love Me". In 2002 the critically-acclaimed number one jazz cd Ask a Woman Who Knows coverered songs made famous by Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, and Sarah Vaughan.

In September 2006, she released Leavin', a cover album of tracks made popular by Shelby Lynne, Kate Bush, Sting, and Fiona Apple, and the hit remake of Aretha Franklin's "Daydreaming". The album is a hybrid of rock, pop music, and R&B.

Cole's latest album Still Unforgettable was released September 9, 2008 including another virtual duet with her father, a cover of his 1951 hit "Walkin' My Baby Back Home". Still Unforgettable won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the 51st Grammy Awards.

Television and film

Cole has carved out a secondary career in acting. She has also appeared several times in live concerts or other music related programs, including the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute with sidemen Richard Campbell, Jeffrey Worrell, Eddie Cole and Dave Joyce. In 1990, she (along with jazz vocalist Al Jarreau) sang the song "Mr. President" on HBO's Comic Relief special, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. After Johnny Mathis appeared on a special of Cole's in 1980, the two kept in contact, and in 1992, he invited Cole to be a part of his television special titled "A Tribute To Nat Cole" for BBC-TV in Englandmarker. It had high viewer ratings and was successful. From that project, an album with the same name was released, and featured several medley and solo numbers.

Cole has made a number of dramatic appearances on television, including guest appearances on I'll Fly Away, Touched by an Angel, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2006, she made a memorable guest appearance on the popular ABC show Grey's Anatomy as a terminally ill patient. Her character visited Seattle Grace Hospital to have a fork removed from her neck that her husband had stabbed her with during a mishap; the couple had been having sex in public.

Cole has also made several appearances in feature films, most recently in the Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely. She has appeared in several made-for-TV movies, most notably as the lead in Lily in Winter. Cole was featured on Macy Gray's album Big, singing "Finally Make Me Happy".

She also sang the national anthem with the Atlanta University Center Chorus at Super Bowl XXVIII.

On December 2, 2006, Cole performed for the first time in Grand Caymanmarker, Cayman Islandsmarker, as part of the annual Cayman Jazz Fest.

On the February 5, 2007, episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Cole sang "I Say a Little Prayer" at a benefit dinner for Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson).

She can also be seen in the last scene of Nas' music video for "Can't Forget About You". The song uses a sample of her father's song "Unforgettable". Cole is sitting at a piano in a cabaret-style lounge mouthing her father's song with Nas standing beside her.

Natalie Cole also performed "Somethings Gotta Give" on American Idol on April 29, 2009.


NOTE: this filmography is not yet completed

Year Title Role Notes
1990 "Comic Relief" (HBO Special) (performed)
1992 A Tribute To Nat King Cole (BBC Special) (performed)
1997 Cats Don't Dance Sawyer (singing parts)
2004 De-Lovely Musical performer
2006 Grey's Anatomy Terminally ill patient

Personal life

Cole has been married three times. She married Marvin Yancy on July 31, 1976, by whom she has a son Robert Adam Yancy (born October 1977); he is now a musician who tours with her. Marvin was her producer, and an ordained Baptist minister who helped reintroduce her to religion. Under his influence, Cole changed from a lapsed Episcopalian to become a devout Baptist. Cole and Yancy divorced in 1980; Yancy died of a heart attack in 1985, aged 34. In 1989, Cole married record producer Andre Fischer; they divorced in 1995. In 2001, Cole married bishop Kenneth Dupree; they divorced in 2004.

Drug abuse and recovery

In 2000, Cole released an autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, which described her battle with drugs during much of her life.
  • In the book, Cole admitted to using heroin and crack cocaine.
  • Cole said she began recreational drug use while attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • She also disclosed that she was arrested in Toronto, Ontario, Canadamarker for possession of heroin in 1975.
  • Cole continued to spiral out of control - including one incident where she refused to evacuate a burning building, and another where her young son Robert nearly drowned in the family swimming pool while she was on a drug binge. She did eventually enter rehab in 1983.

In concert with the release of the book, her autobiography was turned into a made-for-TV movie, The Natalie Cole Story, which aired December 10, 2000 on NBC.she plans on coming back to her home town and starting over.

Health problems

On July 16, 2008, Cole announced that she was diagnosed with hepatitis C likely caused by her drug use: "I've been so fortunate to have learned so much from my past experiences. I am embraced by the love and support of my family and friends; I am committed to my belief in myself and in my abiding faith to meet this challenge with a heartfelt optimism and determination. This is how I intend to deal with this current challenge in my life." Dr. Graham Woolf, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA/Cedars Sinai Medical Center, said that Cole "had a terrific response to her medication and is now virus negative. This gives her an increased chance of cure. But, she has also suffered significant side effects from the anti-viral medicine, which is the only FDA authorized treatment for hepatitis C. Her side effects include fatigue, muscle aches and dehydration but she is recovering from these. On September 19, 2008 she was rushed to the hospital due to her Hepatitis C medications.

Cole has also had struggles with kidney disease. Before receiving a kidney transplant on May 20, 2009, Cole had been receiving kidney dialysis three times a week. During her March 31, 2009 appearance on Larry King Live "dozens of emails flooded the CNN studio" with offers for replacement kidneys.

As of June 2009, Cole has received a kidney transplant. The news of the organ came on the same day her sister Carole died from cancer. Natalie attended the memorial services and continues to heal and grew stronger with her new kidney.

She expects to tour extensively in the fall of 2009 and made her triumphant stage comeback on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in LA.

Selective awards and recognitions

Grammy history

Natalie Cole Grammy Award History
Year Category Title Genre Result Notes
2009 Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Still Unforgettable Trad Pop Winner
1996 Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals "When I Fall In Love" Pop Winner Natalie Cole (& Nat "King" Cole)
Best Traditional Pop Performance "Stardust" Trad Pop Nominee
1993 Best Jazz Vocal Performance Take a Look Jazz Winner
1991 Record of the Year "Unforgettable" General Winner Natalie Cole (& Nat "King" Cole)
Album of the Year Unforgettable... with Love General Winner
Best Traditional Pop Performance Unforgettable... with Love Trad Pop Winner
Best Jazz Vocal Performance "Long 'Bout Midnight" Jazz Nominee
1989 Best R&B Vocal Performance,
Duo or Group
"We Sing Praises" R&B Nominee Natalie Cole & Deniece Williams
Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Good to Be Back R&B Nominee
1987 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female Everlasting R&B Nominee
1979 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female I Love You So R&B Nominee
1978 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female "Our Love" R&B Nominee
1977 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female "I've Got Love on My Mind" R&B Nominee
1976 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female "Sophisticated Lady " R&B Winner
Best Pop Vocal Perfomrance, Female Natalie Pop Nominee
1975 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female "This Will Be" R&B Winner
Best New Artist of the Year General Winner

Other Awards

Natalie Cole Awards
Year Category Title Result Notes
2002 and 2009 Best Jazz Artist NAACP Image Awards Winner
2000 Best Actress -
Television Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special
NAACP Image Awards Winner Livin for Love:
The Natalie Cole Story
1999 Hitmaker Award Songwriters Hall of Fame *Winner*
1993 Lifetime Musical Achievement The George and Ira Gershwin Award Winner
1991 Favorite Artist - Adult Contemporary American Music Awards Winner
1978 Favorite Female Artist - Soul / Rhythm & Blues American Music Awards Winner
1977 Favorite Female Artist - Soul / Rhythm & Blues American Music Awards Winner


See also


  1. Natalie Cole Leaves The Past Behind Cole Experiences Renewal On New Album 'Leavin' - HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Sept. 24, 2006) by Caitlin A. Johnson - Retrieved on 05-23-07
  2. Simply Unforgettable- The Natalie Cole Story
  3. Natalie Cole Offers a Candid Look At Her Life in TV One On One Interview Premiering Sunday, Sept. 24 At 9 PM Retrieved on 2007-05-23
  4.,6115,1172344_3_0_,00.html Retrieved on 05-23-07
  5. Retrieved on 05-23-07
  6.,,20070791,00.html 8 May 1978 People Magazine
  7. Social Security Death Index
  8. Natalie Cole: A Living Legend
  9. Retrieved on 05-23-07
  10. [1] Retrieved on 05-23-07
  11., Natalie Cole says she has hepatitis C
  12., Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, Michael J. Fox
  13. Natalie Cole: My Son May Be My Kidney Donor, February 4, 2009
  14. [2] Natalie Cole needs kidney, gets offers during show, April 1, 2009
  15. Grammy Award search engine
  16. The Envelope: The Award Insider
  17. Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story (2002)

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