Natalie Cole
A selection of Natalie Cole album covers. (Gabe Crawford)

On Thursday, music lost one of its greatest interpreters of song when Natalie Cole died. The daughter of the great Nat King Cole, Natalie had perfected her own place in music, which resulted in numerous accolades including nine Grammy awards.

Starting out in the mid-1970s, Cole’s singing initially received little acclaim. She wasn’t able to gain traction until Capitol Records (ironically, her father’s label) noticed and signed the Los Angeles native to her first contract. There, she recorded her first hit. This Will Be (An Everlasting Love), peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart. Cole followed with a string of more top Hot 100 chart appearances throughout the next 32 years of her career.

Born in 1950, Cole created her own persona outside her musical family, often mixing jazz, R&B and soul throughout her recordings. If comparable to anyone, she could be viewed as a mix of Aretha Franklin and the late Donna Summer. She carved out this niche with such hits as a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Pink Cadillac, the song Our Love and Unforgettable, her landmark duet with her father posthumously.

At the beginning of her career, Cole firmly declared she would not be a copy of her father, and she refused to sing his songs live or on her recordings. That changed in 1991 when she released her most successful album, Unforgettable: With Love. The album was a bypass from her previous material, yet it proved to be an immense success, selling 5 million units.

From her first album in 1975, Cole declared “this will be” an “unforgettable” career. It certainly was, and Cole’s family summed up her legacy by stating:

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.

While it may be impossible to touch on each highlight of Cole’s career, NonDoc offers this Spotify playlist featuring eight of her most memorable and popular recordings, as well as a few of her lesser-known cuts.


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