Natalie Maria Cole (February 6, 1950 – December 31, 2015) was an American singer, songwriter, and performer. The daughter of Nat King Cole, Natalie rose to musical success in the mid–1970s as an R&B artist with the hits “This Will Be”, “Inseparable”, and “Our Love”. After a period of failing sales and performances due to a heavy drug addiction, Cole re-emerged as a pop artist with the 1987 album Everlasting and her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac”. In the 1990s, she re-recorded standards by her father, resulting in her biggest success, Unforgettable… with Love, which sold over seven million copies and also won Cole numerous Grammy Awards. She sold over 30 million records worldwide.
On December 31, 2015, Cole died at the age of 65 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Califonia, due to persistent health complications.
Natalie Cole was born at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, the daughter of crooner Nat King Cole and former Duke Ellington Orchestra singer Maria Hawkins Ellington, and raised in the affluent Hancock Park district of Los Angeles. Regarding her childhood, Cole referred to her family as “the black Kennedys” and was exposed to many great singers of jazz, soul, and blues. At the age of 6, 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 (1959–95), and younger twin sisters Timolin and Casey (born 1961).
Her paternal uncle Freddy Cole is a singer and pianist with numerous albums and awards. Cole enrolled in Northfield School, an elite New England preparatory school before 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 transferred briefly to University of Southern California where she pledged the Upsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She later transferred back to the University of Massachusetts, where she majored in Child Psychology and minored in German, graduating in 1972.
Cole was married three times. She married Marvin Yancy, songwriter, producer and former member of the ’70s R&B group The Independents on July 31, 1976. She had a son, Robert Adam “Robbie” Yancy (born October 15, 1977); he is now a musician who toured 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 got divorced in 1980 before Yancy died of a heart attack in 1985, aged 34. In 1989, Cole married record producer and former drummer for the band Rufus, Andre Fischer; they were divorced in 1995. In 2001, Cole married bishop Kenneth Dupree; they divorced in 2004.
Cole was active in the Afghan World Foundation cause, supporting Sonia Nassery Cole (no relation)
In 2000, Cole released an autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, which described her battle with drugs during much of her life, including heroin and crack cocaine. Cole said she began recreational drug use while attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was arrested in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for possession of heroin in 1975. Cole continued to spiral out of control – including one incident during which she refused to evacuate a burning building, and another during which her young son Robert nearly drowned in the family swimming pool while she was on a drug binge. She entered rehab in 1983.
Her autobiography was released in conjunction with a made-for-TV movie, Livin’ for Love: The Natalie Cole Story, which aired December 10, 2000, on NBC and re-aired October 26, 2011, on Centric TV.
Cole canceled several events in December 2015 due to illness. It was reported on January 1, 2016, that Cole had died on December 31 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Her family stated that at the time of her death, Cole had “ongoing health issues” According to Cole’s publicist, Maureen O’Connor, the singer’s death was the result of congestive heart failure.
Cole’s son Robert Yancy, and her sisters, Timolin and Casey Cole, offered the following comment. “Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived … with dignity, strength and honour. Our beloved mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain unforgettable in our hearts forever.