with albums such as unforgettable
with love, take a look and stardust to her
credit, natalie cole has accomplished something most artists would fear to attempt; rather than riding
the rollercoaster that is the taste of the general public, she has deliberately chosen to keep alive a
musical tradition that began with such legends as ella fitzgerald, dinah washington and, her own father,
nat "king" cole. "these songs deserve to be kept alive because, when you think about it, each of them are
wonderful stories in their own right," says natalie of her decision. indeed, it is such professional/artistic
integrity, along with poise and elegance that have not been prevelent in the music industry for half a
century, that have earned her the title of diva.
natalie cole began her professional singing career at the age of eleven, at los angeles' greek theater. growing up in the shadow of her father and his contemporaries, it seemed only natural that natalie cole would take her place among the pantheon of vocal deities whom she had watched in rehearsal and at performances throughout her childhood. but natalie was determined to forge her own path, not relying on her father's notoriety. recordings made with the writing/producing team of chuck jackson and marvin yancey in the early seventies led to a record deal with capitol records. while there, albums such as inseparable, natalie, thankful, unpredictable and i love you so spawned five #1 r&b hits.
in spite of the recognition she was gaining as a singer, natalie was plagued by feelings of inadequacy, partially the result of having a famous father. "most of my life i spent wondering if people liked me because of who i am, and the more successful you become, the worse it gets," she says of the insecurity that led to a six month stay at minnesota's hazeldon foundation for drug and alcohol addiction recovery. bouncing back from that ordeal, natalie signed with epic records, in 1983, and recorded one more album with yancey and jackson before teaming with peabo bryson and ray parker, jr. for duet albums. in 1987, she scored hits with "jump start", "i live for your love" and "pink cadillac" (a cover of the bruce springsteen classic). it was also in 1987 that natalie foreshadowed a redirection of her musical style with a cover of her father's 1957 hit "when i fall in love". 1989 saw the release of good to be back, containing the song "i miss you like crazy", the success of which set the stage for her dramatic stylistic evolution.
unforgettable with love was released in 1991 and, earning her seven grammy awards, there was not a person left who did not know who natalie cole was. industry technology had allowed her to fulfill a lifelong dream of recording a duet with her father, but perhaps even more revolutionary was her decision to resurrect song classics at a time when most musicians were looking forward. two more albums of song classicstake a look and stardusthave shown natalie to be an artist concerned more with the quality of the material she performs than her popularity. popular, however, is exactly what she's become, with each of her cover albums reaching at least gold status. on stardust, natalie gives her audience more of what they want by recording another duet"when i fall in love"with her famed father. "this time," natalie explains, "it was really nice singing with him. i felt a lot more confident. the first time i was nervous and didn't feel on the same level with him. but this time i felt like we were doing a love song together."
presently, natalie is working on her autobiography and enjoying time spent with her boyfriend (about whom she will only reveal that he is neither american nor in the industry) as she tours extensively, in support of her albums. natalie has also been exercising other artistic muscles by acting in films such as lily in winter (1994), abducted: a father's love (1996) and cats don't dance (1997) and television shows such as touched by an angel and nbc's critically)acclaimed i'll fly away. in freak citywhich aired on april 18, 1999, cole played a singer who suffers brain trauma in an accident, resulting in asphasia, causing her to have difficulty putting words and thoughts together. co-star marlee matlin had this to say about natalie's performance in the movie, "it's funny, there's a scene that we had where she's singing in the bar and everyone was really looking forward to it, and the actors who had the day off actually came to the set because they wanted to see natalie sing, and i thought, 'what was the big deal about that?' me being the deaf person, what do i care? so I just sat there, and i was the only one who really wasn't appreciating it as much as the hearing people were. but then, after a second or so, i felt her voice, i felt her presence and the soul that she brought, and she actually brought me to tears. as a deaf person, she brought me to tears." lending her stellar voice, however, to such projects as rhythm, country + blues and the lincoln center production of the wizard of oz proves that natalie's first love is music. 1999 saw the release of snowfall on the sahara, natalie's first album of original material since 1989's good to be back. a stunning collection of mostly ballads that blend lush instrumentation with natalie's liquid amber voice, snowfall on the sahara beautifull melds contemporary r&b with a solid jass foundation. she summarizes her recording career by saying, "all of these songs have a wonderful ambiance to them. they kind of give you that warm feeling of someone putting their arms around you. i like to think of myself as not just a singer, but an interpreter as well. i like to paint pictures, and each of these songs reflect their own different kind of colors."