Natalie Cole, the American singer who overcame battles with substance abuse and the long shadow of her famous father to earn worldwide success of her own, has died. She was 65.
Cole died Thursday night at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles “due to complications from ongoing health issues,” according to a statement from her family.
“It is with heavy hearts that we bring to you all the news of our Mother and sister’s passing. Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived … with dignity, strength and honor,” her sisters, Timolin and Casey Cole, and son, Robert Yancy, said in the statement. “Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain unforgettable in our hearts forever.”
The daughter of Nat “King” Cole built a chart-topping career with hits such as “This Will Be,” “Inseparable” and “Our Love.” She fought health problems for years and received a kidney transplant in 2009 after developing hepatitis, which she blamed on past intravenous drug use.
Cole recently had to cancel planned tour stops, including one in Louisville and one in New York due to illness, according to multiple reports.
Cole won nine Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year in 1992 for “Unforgettable … With Love,” a virtual duet made with the recordings of her late father.
“We’ve lost a wonderful, highly cherished artist and our heartfelt condolences go out to Natalie’s family, friends, her many collaborators, as well as to all who have been entertained by her exceptional talent,” said Neil Portnow, President and CEO of The Recording Academy.
Nat “King” Cole died of lung cancer in 1965 at age 45. Natalie was 15 at the time of her father’s death. He was already a star in the music industry, and rose to even greater heights in the 1950s and 1960s, when Natalie was born to the R&B legend and Maria Ellington Cole, a onetime vocalist, who died in 2012 at the age of 89.
Inspired by her father’s musical gift, Cole began her own career as an R&B singer but later gravitated toward smooth pop and jazz genres.
Her first album, 1975’s “Inseparable,” won two Grammys — one for best new artist and one for best female R&B vocal performance for the hit “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love).”
“Natalie possessed one of those magical voices that grabbed you from the first note. It could sound like honey, but when she wanted to belt, she could keep up with the best of them,” said Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer of the Grammy Awards. “In a way, and not just in lineage, Natalie was the connector between the great singers of her father and Ella’s generation, and the great female voices who were to dominate in the last 25 years.”
Through technology, Cole’s voice was spliced with her father’s for the 1991 album, “Unforgettable … With Love,” which included versions of some of his best-known songs, including “That Sunday That Summer,” “Too Young” and “Mona Lisa.”
That album sold some 14 million copies and won six Grammys.
While recording the album, Cole told The Associated Press that 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,” she said.
Cole also worked as an actress, with appearances on TV’s “Touched by an Angel” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and was nominated for an Emmy in 1992 for a televised performance of her father’s songs.
Cole’s forte and great passion, though, was performing live.
“I still love recording and still love the stage,” she said on her website in 2008, “but like my dad, I have the most fun when I am in front of that glorious orchestra or that kick-butt big band.”
Flowers will be placed on Cole’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday.