World of Slick Music – Natalie Cole

World of Slick Music

Natalie Cole R.I.P. 1950-2015

Hi folks and happy new slick year!                                                                      So the year of 2016 is only 2 days old and one of the first things to happen was to find out that on new years eve 2015 the world lost another icon and legend Natalie Cole how sad. From that point of view i can’t think of any other artist to write about and this will be my like dedication to her and her legacy she will leave behind.

She truly was a beautiful woman with class don’t you think?!            Maybe you’re just like me and thinks that Natalie isn’t the first name to pop up in your mind when thinking of so called slick music. Or it could also depend on what definition you have for what’s slick but who really cares!                                                                                                                                It all began on February the 6th in 1950 when Natalie was born as the daughther of crooner/jazz singer Nat King Cole and former Duke Ellington orchestra singer Maria Hawkins Ellington.

Left to a very young Natalie is her father and to the right jazz icon Louis Armstrong and behind him sitting on a chair is another icon/legend within the jazz world Ella Fitzgerald,

She was born and also grew up in Los Angeles. Natalie once described her childhood as having a family of “black Kennedy’s” meaning that she was exosed to many of the biggest artists/names in jazz, soul and blues as a child. Beeing the daughther of Nat King Cole the music was there from the very beginning and she began singing at the age of 6 and 5 years later when she was 11 she sang on her fathers christmas album.

Natalie at young age together with her father at the piano. This very picture is featured in the booklet of Natalie’s album Unforettable.

Her real family the one she lived and grew up with was adopted sister Carol “Cookie” Cole, the biological mother was the sister of her mother Maria. Further she had another adodpted sibling brother Nat “Kelly” Cole and twin sisters Timolin and Casey. She enrolled to to Northfield School, an elite New England preparatory school before her father died when she was only 15 due to lung cancer. This caused some problems with the relationship with her mother. Later she enrolled the University of Massachusetts Amhearst. She transferred briefly to University of California where she pledged the Upsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. sorority. It didn’t took long before she was back at the Massachusetts University where she majored in child psychology and minored in German, graduated in 1972.

Natalie in 1975 around the time she began her own music career.

Natalie had grown up listen to like every blues, jazz, soul songtresses there were. There was Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Aretha Frankin to name just a few of them. Now that she had graduated it was time to begin exploring the world of music for real. Just like many else she began at small clubs with her own band called Black Magic. At first the club owners welcomed here due to beeing Nat King’s daughter…but got dissapointed when she sang R&B and rock and not jazz! Sometimes names can be both a blessing and a curse…                      I’ll share some own experiences here, sorry for the like detour here. Anyway when i was young my brother was a really good goalkeeper in football/soccer and people knew this. Now if i also wanted to play and someone recognized me as “the baby brother of the goalkeeper” they insisted that i should be the goalie due to my brother was one…

Natalie and her sister Carol in 1975.

Despite this Natalie was spotted by some producers from the Chicago area called Chuck Jackson and Marvin Jancy, who then approached her to make albums. After cutting several records together , they passed off the music to several labels only to be turned down. Eventually one label agreed to publish the stuff and it was the same company her father belonged to, Capitol Records. Along with the producers Natalie went into Capitol studios to polish the recordings they had shipped. This would eventually become the debut album of Natalie, picture below.

Inseparable

Some of the songs on this album sounded very much like the stuff Aretha Franklin did at the time. A matter of fact is that some of the songs were first offered Aretha when she was working on her You album. Natalie’s debut album became a big success mostly due to the big hit “This Will Be”. That particular song would gave her the first Grammy Award for “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance”. Second single from this album “Inseperable” also became a smash hit and both songs reached number 1 at the R&B charts. She also won another Grammy Award for “Best New Artist”. Quite a start of your own career i’d say!

A proud Natalie with a Grammy Award.

Media started to label Natalie “the new Aretha” which created a rivalry between the two singers. She became instanly a big star and it didn’t took long before next album was released which also became a big success thanks to two songs the more jazz oriented “Mr Melody” and the funky “Sophisticated Lady”. And with her third release she got her first platinum selling record, Unpredictable. It happend mostly beacuse of the number one R&B hit “I’ve Got Love on My Mind”. You might say she was on a roll here cause next album also sold platinum, second one in a row. This made her historical beeing the first female artist having 2 platinum selling albums in one year this was 1977. She stayed very busy during the second half of the 1970:s. To capitalize her fame she starred on her own TV special which attracted bands like Earth, Wind & Fire and she also appeared on a TV special Sinatra & friends. In 1978 her first live album was released.

Natalie jamming and singing with the iconic band Earth, Wind & Fire on her own TV special in 1977.

As i mentioned things were going totally great for her and in 1979 she got her own star on the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” further this year two albums were released, one was a duet album with male soul singer Peabo Bryson, both sold gold. The 1970:s turned into the 80:s and Natalie released her 8th album but now things began to change it didn’t sell as good as all the previously ones and her career began to take a detour. Then in 1981 her personal problems with drug addiction began to take public notice and her career suffered as a result. It’s a rotten world showbiz where your only value is how many records you sell then how you truly feel on the inside doesn’t matter at all.                        Natalie did what the most people do in this situation, she went to rehab and reportedly she stayed there for 6 months in 1983.

Natalie’s getting her own star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979.

After rehab she began to get her acts together again and her career began to resurgence but now it wasn’t R&B she sang neither jazz but more like pop oriented materials. However it helped her selling one million copies in 1987, her first platinum in 10 years. I’d say she was back in business here. Then in 1991 she went back to her roots and did the kind of music her father did and the result became her biggest selling album ever with the highlight a duet with her father, Unforgettable. This was the first time in 20 years she agreed to sing her fathers music. She produced vocal arrangements for the songs with piano accompaniments by her uncle Ike Cole. All together it sold 7 million copies in U.S. alone and Natalie received 3 Grammy Awards, “Album of the Year”, “Record of the Year” and “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance”.

Natalie and her 3 Grammy Awards in 1992.

Now she began singing more and more jazz standards and less and less R&B. In my opinion i think she did sing jazz better than R&B cause her beautiful voice goes much better with that kind of material. Not saying she sang crappy R&B cause she most certainly didn’t! I understand that she wanted to try out her own way and sing what she wanted to sing herself not what everyone expected her to do. I don’t know but maybe now she had like reconziled with her past and her roots and realized she could take on the classic songs of her father and the songs of his generation. Cause the fact is that after Unforgettable almost every album she did was in that old jazz/swing style including her christmas album. I can’t think of any better singer who has preserved the legacy after the likes of Dinah Washington, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone. And this made done by a songtress that started out singing R&B like Aretha Franklin.

Natalie with another Grammy Award this time 1994 and she won Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for the song “When i Fall in Love” which was another duet with her father.

I haven’t mentioned her private life much today and with that i mean the kind of life that isn’t directly related to the music she made. She was married 3 times in case you wonder. I guess some people likes to know who people are married to and who they might have divorced but i ain’t judging here just saying what i think. In her autobiograph from 2000 called Angel On my Shoulder she describes that she had been fighting and struggling with drugs for a long time of her life. She started with recreational drugs when at University of Massachusetts.

At the Grammy Awards 2009 Natalie received her 9th and last Grammy Award.

I read today, January 2nd 2016, on Facebook where a trumpet player describes his first meeting with Natalie. He had been contracted to play at session or maybe several sessions at the Hit Factory studios, New York. He was quite young and shy and also new in town he said. Along with him in the studios were many bad cats, guys he had looked up to and held like heroes. Cats that had done dozens of sessions…and here he was “the new shy kid in town” nervous to death! He said he could barely make a sound in his trumpet but Natalie spotted him and went forward and introduced herself, like she needed to that he said, and talked with him for a few minutes. This helped him focus and manage to do the job he was hired for. It says a lot about a person that sees everyone in the room and despite the fact that everyone knows who you are still you introduce yourself. That’s as far from beeing a diva you can get and shows that you have respect for others.

Natalie perorming in New York March 2nd 2015.

The official course of death were, according to her family, “ongoing health issues”. The publicist of Natalie said it was the result of congestive heart failure. Her family left the following statement regarding her passing “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”.

The song i’ve choosen is a more R&B tune from her second album called Natalie from 1976, picture below, and the song is called Touch Me.

Finally some reflections of my own regarding Natalie. It’s always sad when someone dies offcourse no matter if the death was expected or not. If the person was a family member or at least someone who were close then it’s even more sad and hard to bear no doubt. To me it’s extra sad when a true icon and legend dies and especially when it happens way too early. Natalie only became 65 years old and leaves one son, Robert, behind.

Natalie performing in June 2015 and as you can see on this picture that the disease(s) she was struggling with had had a quite big impact on her. But the Natalie we should remember is the one on the pic below.

I’ve mentioned it already but say it again here that i think that her finest hours were when she did the songs of her father and other jazz standards. It might seem like a contradiction that the stuff i think Natalie did best isn’t slick, not according to me anyway. I don’t think it would be a contradiction at all cause to me it simply shows that you can be open minded about music and not only focusing on it beeing “slick”. She was the best interpreter of the “old school jazz” meaning the so called stadards the past 3 decades. That voice she most definetely inheritaged from her father with whom she now has reunited with and they are now singing for the Lord and all the angels in the heavens.          R.I.P. Natalie Cole gone but never forgotten and you will forever be unforgettable by all of us who are still here on planet earth.

 

Well since it’s Natalie’s finest hour and her perhaps most beloved song i’ve gotta add Uforgettable as a bonus here even it ain’t slick.

Tags: #worldofslickmusic #nataliecole #natkingcole #dukeellington #mariahawkinsellington #louisarmstrong #ellafitzgerald #carolcole #natkellycole #timolincole #caseycole #ninasimone #ellafitzgerald #billieholliday #arethafranklin #blackmagic #chuckjackson #marvinyancy #capitolrecords #earthwindandfire #franksinatra  #ikecole #dinahwashington

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