Natalie Cole’s passing was the very first thing I heard waking up New Years Day of 2016. This turned out to be just one of far too many cherished musical icons who passed away during the course of the year-finally concluding with the loss of George Michael on Christmas Day. I’ve been aware of Cole’s music and presence in some way,somehow throughout my life. And at the end of the day,I do not desire to have her death be representative of what might be the worst all around year of the new millennium. So today,I’m going to talk about Natalie Cole related events that both influenced and taught me.
First time I ever heard her was when my mom and dad used to play a cassette tape of her 1987 album Everlasting for me. Its an excellent album I proudly have on CD today. The song they both went into it for was the Bruce Springsteen penned slice of rock n’ soul “Pink Cadillac”. With Aretha Franklin’s song “Freeway Of Love” fresh in my mind,that “pink Cadillac” concept seemed to crop more more than it really did. Of course a few years later,she beautifully honored her dad with her re-dubbed duet with her father (now itself a rebooted classic) in “Unforgettable”.
Toward the end of the 90’s,Natalie Cole re-entered my life when re-examining the late 70’s James Earl Jones PSA radio program LP set of my dad’s Genius On The Black Side. Each featured black musical icons,new and old,with wraparound interstitial’s about social security. One of them featured Cole’s debut hit from 1975 “This Will Be”. It was my first time hearing the song,however abbreviated it was. It was about a year later that the TV biopic Livin’ for Love. It was a unique presentation as it featured Natalie herself narrating her life story while Theresa Randall playing her young self.
As illustrated beautifully in this movie,Cole’s life had many highs and lows. She got involved in the music of the 60’s counter culture as a way to separate herself from her family legacy,married Marvin Yancy and engaged on a very successful solo career during the 70’s and into the 80’s. All the while enduring failed marriages and years of drug addiction in the process. However fictionalized the event was,the image of Randall’s Cole hearing her first hit “This Will Be” on the radio for the first time after having scored a fix in a back alley showcased the equal measure of success and irony in her life and career.
In recent years,friends of mine such as Henry Cooper (a big fan of her music and the biopic) and Andrew Osterov,who helped me to explore her earlier 80’s releases,Natalie Cole’s music and its consistent diversity has been brought even further into my field of attention. Much as with Whitney Houston,also not with us anymore,Natalie Cole is an example that musical talent is not simply a matter of genetics. But also one of influence and shared interest-no matter how musical the family is. And now being in a place where I’m starting to make my own music,its something to keep in mind.