American singer, songwriter and occasional actress Natalie Cole took the music world by storm thanks to the No. 1 R&B/Hip Hop debut album “Inseparable” (1975). She won her first two Grammy Awards with the album. Cole received further success with the gold albums “Natalie” (1976), which spawned the Grammy Award winning single “Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady),” and “I Love You So” (1979) and the platinum records “Unpredictable” and “Thankful” (both 1977). Her career suffered a blow during the early 1980s because of drug and alcohol addiction. Cole eventually overcame her addictions and boosted her celebrity status with “Everlasting” (1987). The daughter of Nat 'King' Cole, Cole won Grammy Awards for the jazz album “Unforgettable... with Love” (1991), which contained songs previously recorded by her dad. She picked up additional Grammy Awards for the hit jazz albums “Take a Look” (1993), “When I Fall,” “Still Unforgettable” (2008) and the song “When I Fall In Love” (1996). In addition to Grammy Awards, Cole has also received other awards, including American Music Awards, the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award (1993) and NAACP Image Awards. She was inducted into the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 1979.
Cole has been married and divorced three times. She shared one son, Robert Adam Yancy, with her first husband Marvin Yancy (died in 1985 of a heart attack).
Cole, who is now sober, struggled with alcohol and drugs for many years and wrote about it in the autobiography “Angel on My Shoulder” (2000). In 2008, she proclaimed she was diagnosed with hepatitis C that was probably caused by her drug habit. She also struggled with kidney disease and received a kidney transplant in June 2009.
Childhood and Family:
Natalie Maria Cole was born on February 6, 1950, in Los Angeles, California. She was raised in the wealthy Hancock Park district of Los Angeles by legendary singer Nat “King” Cole and former Duke Ellington Orchestra singer Maria Cole. The second eldest of five, Natalie, whose nickname is Sweetie, grew up with her older adopted sister Carole “Cookie” (daughter of her maternal aunt), her adopted brother Nat “Kelly” Cole and her twin sisters Timolin and Casey (born in 1961). As a child, she was exposed to various kinds of music, including rock, blues, jazz and soul and became a fan of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and the Beatles, to name a few. She made her recording debut at age 6 when she sang on her dad's Christmas album, but did not turn professional until age 11.
Natalie's father passed away from lung cancer in February 1965. Shortly after, the 15-year-old Natalie began to develop a difficult relationship with her mom, who moved the family to Massachusetts after the death of her husband. Natalie graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1968 and attended college at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She briefly returned to Los Angeles when she transferred to the University of Southern California, but quickly moved back to the University of Massachusetts. She graduated with a B.A. degree in child psychology with a minor in German in 1972
On July 31, 1976, Natalie married her producer Marvin Yancy. It was through her husband, who was an appointed Baptist minister, that she rediscovered her religious beliefs. The marriage ended in divorced in 1980 after producing a son named Robert Adam Yancy (born in October 1977). Natalie married for a second time on September 16, 1989, to Andre Fischer, who was a record producer. They divorced in 1995. On October 12, 2001, she married Kenneth H. Dupree, but the marriage ended in divorce in 2004.
Unforgettable... with Love
Singing with her famous father by the time she was 6, Natalie Cole had begun taking professional jobs at a small club by the time she was 11. Because she was still in school, her dad allowed her to sing only on the weekends. After college, she continued working on the club circuit and developed her own style along the way. In one of her shows at a Chicago nightclub, she was discovered by R&B producers Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, Cole's future first husband. She eventually secured a record contract with Capitol Records, a former label of her father Nat “King” Cole.
In 1975, Natalie Cole released her debut album “Inseparable.” The album rose to No. 18 on the Billboard 200 and became a chart topper on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The lead single, “This Will Be,” which was composed by Jackson and Yancy, spent two weeks at No.1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart and rose to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The hit song brought Cole a Grammy in 1975 for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. The second single, “Inseparable,” also written and produced by Jackson and Yancy, became the singer's second straight No. 1 hit on the Hot Soul Singles. The title track also peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. The album “Inseparable” received gold certification from RIAA and brought Cole an additional Grammy for Best New Artist.
The sophomore effort “Natalie” followed in 1976. The album peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 13 on the Billboard 200. It went gold thanks in part to the hit single “Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady),” which Cole wrote with Jackson and Yancy. The song brought Cole a 1976 Grammy in the category of Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. The follow up single, “Mr. Melody,” (1976) hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles.
Cole enjoyed even bigger commercial success with her third album, “Unpredictable” (1977). A chart topper on the U.S. R&B Albums chart and a Top 8 on Billboard's 200, the album sold one million pieces in the U.S. and was certified platinum by RIAA. It spawned the gold single “I've Got Love on My Mind” (1977), which spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Soul Singles chart and rose to No. 5 on the Billboard 100. The song received a 1977 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. Cole gained further financial victory with the album “Thankful” (also released in 1977). An R&B No. 5 and Pop No. 16 LP, it marked the second consecutive platinum album for Cole and produced the hit single “Our Love,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Soul Singles chart for two weeks. It was also a pop hit, landing at No. 10 on the Billboard 100. “Our Love” sold over million copies and received gold status in 1978. Cole was nominated for a 1978 Grammy in the category of Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, for the song.
In 1978, Cole launched her first live album, “Natalie Live,” which went to No. 9 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 9 on Billboard 200. It received gold certification from RIAA. It was also in 1978 that she was handed an American Music for Favorite Female Artist - Soul/Rhythm & Blues, her second honor from the awards show. She picked up her first American Music award in 1977 for the same category. The same year, she also provided backup vocals on Stephen Bishop's “Bish” album on the song “A Fool At Heart.”
Cole released the follow up to “Thankful,” “I Love You So,” in 1979. The album rose to No. 11 and No. 52 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and the Billboard 200 charts, respectively, and went gold. She was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for her work on the album. “I Love You So” produced R&B hits with the songs “Stand By” (#9), “Sorry” (#34) and “Your Lonely Heart” (#59). “We're the Best of Friends,” with Peabo Bryson, was also released in 1979. It was a top 25 album on the R&B/ Hip Hop Albums chart.
Perhaps because of her involvement with drugs and alcohol, Cole's career suffered a setback in the early 1980s. The album “Don't Look Back” (1980) peaked at No.17 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 77 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the hit R&B/pop single “Someone That I Used to Love,” which topped at No. 21 on the Hot Soul Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts. The follow up, “Happy Love,” (1981) achieved less success by peaking at No. 37 and No. 132 on the R&B Albums chart and the Billboard 200, respectively. “Happy Love” became Cole's last album with the Capitol label.
To overcome her addictions, Cole entered a drug rehabilitation clinic in 1982. Shortly after, she became involved with drugs and alcohol again and underwent surgery to remove throat polyps. Cole made her return to music in 1983 by releasing “I'm Ready” under Epic Records. The album, however, marked another commercial disappointment for the singer. It rose to No. 54 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 182 on the Billboard 200 and sold about 40,000 copies. It produced the 45 top soul hit single with the song “Too Much Mister.” Also in 1983, Cole entered a drug treatment center in Minnesota. She eventually became sober.
Following the Modern Record released album “Dangerous” (1985; #48 Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, #140 Billboard 200), which charted with the song “A Little Bit of Heaven” and the title track, Cole bounced back with “Everlasting” (1987). Released under EMI-Manhattan Records, the album put her back on the top 10 of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (#8) and rose to No. 42 on the Billboard 200, her highest position on the chart since 1977. Generating major R&B/Hip Hop hits with “Jump Start” (#2), and “I Live for Your Love” (#4) and the dance hit “Pink Cadillac,” the album earned gold certification and won Cole her next Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. “Everlasting” was also hit in the U.K.
Cole released “Good to Be Back” in 1989. It was not a big success in the U.S., but managed to reach the Top 10 on the U.K. Albums chart. It spawned the hit single “Miss You Like Crazy,” which rose to No. 7 on the Billboard Top 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary and the R&B Charts. Other singles released from the album include “I Do” (with Freddie Jackson, #7 on the R&B/Hip Hop singles chart) and “Starting Over Again” (#5 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks). Cole picked up a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “Good to Be Back.” She nabbed an additional Grammy nomination in 1989 in the category of Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group for the gospel song “We Sing Praises,” which she shared with Deniece Williams. The song was included in Williams’ “Special Love” album (1989).
Cole's career gained momentum in 1991 with the release of “Unforgettable... with Love” (released on Elektra Records), an album focusing on songs previously recorded by her father. The album rose to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It also peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. It received 14x platinum certification and won a Grammy for Album of the Year. The song “Unforgettable,” which was edited and remixed to create a duet for Cole and her dad, won Grammys for Record of the Year (producer David Foster), Song of the Year (songwriter Irving Gordon) and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance (Cole and Nat 'King' Cole).
After “Unforgettable... with Love,” Cole released three more studio albums on Elektra named “Take a Look” (1993), “Stardust” (1995) and “Snowfall on the Sahara” (1999). “Take a Look” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart, No. 26 on the Billboard 200, No. 14 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and went gold. It won a 1993 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. “Stardust” peaked at No. 20 and No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, respectively, and received platinum certification. It was nominated for a 1996 Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Performance. Also in 1996, Cole rerecorded the popular song “When I Fall In Love,” with her father, and won the Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.
After “Snowfall on the Sahara,” Cole released the jazz album “Ask a Woman Who Knows” in 2002 with Verve Records. It rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart and stayed at the position for 34 weeks. The album received Grammy nominations in the categories of Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for “I'm Glad There Is You,” Best Engineered Album - Non-Classical, and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for “Better Than Anything,” a duet sung with Diana Krall.
Cole released “Leavin'” in 2006. She covered Aretha Franklin's “Day Dreaming” for the album and picked up a 2007 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, for her effort. Her studio album “Still Unforgettable” was released on September 9, 2008, under DMI/Atco Records. It peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums, No. 8 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 19 the Billboard 200. The album won a 2009 Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Besides her music career, Cole has occasionally appeared in front of the camera as an actress. Making her debut in episodes of “The Nat King Cole Show” when she was a child, the multi talented entertainer went on to make guest appearances in the TV shows “Marblehead Manor” (1987), “I'll Fly Away” (1993), “Touched by an Angel” (1995), “Great Performances” (1992, 2002), “Grey's Anatomy” (2006) and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2006). She also played Glinda in the TV film “The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True” (1995), Latisha Corbett in the 1996 TV movie “ Abducted: A Father's Love,” Iula Brown in the television movie “Always Outnumbered” (1998) and Eleanor Sorrell in the TV film “Freak City” (1999). Cole won a 2001 Image for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for “Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story” (2000).
NAACP Image: Best Jazz Artist, 2009
Grammy: Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, “Still Unforgettable,” 2009
Jackson Hole Film Festival: Cowboy Award, Best Score, “The Easter Egg Adventure,” 2004
NAACP Image: Best Jazz Artist, 2002
NAACP Image: Best Actress - Television Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special, “Livin for Love”
The Natalie Cole Story,” 2000
Songwriters Hall of Fame: Hitmaker Award, 1999
Grammy: Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals, “When I Fall In Love,” 1996 (with Nat “King” Cole)
Grammy: Best Jazz Vocal Performance, “Take a Look,” 1993
The George and Ira Gershwin: Lifetime Musical Achievement, 1993
American Music: Favorite Artist - Adult Contemporary, 1991
Grammy: Album of the Year, “Unforgettable... with Love,” 1991
Grammy: Best Traditional Pop Performance, “Unforgettable,” 1991
American Music: Favorite Female Artist - Soul/Rhythm & Blues, 1978
American Music: Favorite Female Artist – Soul/Rhythm & Blues, 1977
Grammy: Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, “Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady),” 1976
Grammy: Best New Artist of the Year, 1975
Grammy: Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, “This Will Be,” 1975