Welcome to the new series by William Price King and having enjoyed the wonderful artistry of her father Nat King Cole over the last few weeks, we are now going to be following the story and career of his daughter Natalie Cole who sadly died on New Year’s Eve 2015.
As an artist there can be nothing more daunting than following in the footsteps of a very famous and successful superstar. This was compounded by the fact that she lost her father, when he tragically died so young in 1965, leaving Natalie with a legacy to uphold as a teenager. Despite this, Natalie carved out a successful career for herself, very much sticking to her own music and producing albums that delighted her fans around the world.
Natalie Cole was born in February 1950 into the musical household headed by Nat King Cole and his jazz singer wife, Maria Cole. Their home in Los Angeles was at the heart of the music industry of the day and if having parents so heavily involved in the business was not enough; her uncle Freddy Cole was also an award winning singer and pianist. There were five children in the growing Cole family and they were raised in an environment that encouraged their natural musical abilities. Jazz, soul and blues artists would have also added their influences as the younger generation mingled with musicians and singers in those very heady years of the industry.
Her recording career began early when she performed a duet with her father on his Christmas Album at age 6 and by 11 years old, she was performing in the community regularly. This wonderful and nurturing environment was shattered with the death of Nat King Cole from cancer in 1965 when Natalie was only fifteen years old and the subsequent move away from Los Angeles to Massachusetts. Natalie attended the prestigious Northfield Mount Hermon High School and for a time her focus moved away from music to her academic studies.
Following high school, Natalie enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and studied Child psychology and German. She did transfer to the University of California for a short time but returned to Massachusetts to complete her bachelor’s degree in 1972.
Growing up Natalie had been exposed to music of every style from soul singer Aretha Franklin to blues-rock artist Janis Joplin. The pull of the music world was too great to ignore and after Natalie graduated from university she returned to performing in public. At first in small clubs with her band Black Magic, but if the patrons were expecting her to follow in her father’s musical footsteps, they were to be disappointed. Natalie focused on covering R&B and rock numbers and was clear that she did not want to capitalise on her father’s style and fame.. “I had to do my own songs in my own way,” she told “Rolling Stone” in 1977.
However, as luck would have it, when performing in The Pub in Amherst there were two music producers from Chicago in the audience; Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy. They saw great potential in Natalie and brought her to Chicago to the Curtis Mayfield studios to record some sessions.
They sent the demos out to various labels and received little encouragement until Capital Records; her father’s label agreed to sign her. Natalie, Chuck and Marvin headed to Los Angeles and spent studio time polishing the demos to compile Natalie Cole’s debut album Inseparable.
The album achieved gold status and charted at No 18 in the US Charts, No 1 in the US R&B, in the Top Ten of the Billboard Pop Album Chart and No 31 in Australia. Apart from one song of the ten tracks, they were all written by Chuck Jackson and Marvin Clancy. As well as the title track Inseparable, Natalie Cole also released This Will Be as a single and both reached No. 1 on the R&B chart. She also won ‘Best New Artist’ at the Grammy Awards.
Here is a life performance of It Will Be from 1975 uploaded by jondbee56
There were some references to Natalie’s similarity to Aretha Franklin’s style and performance that did neither performer justice and there was some talk of some rivalry between the two singers over the years. Certainly there would prove to be more than enough room in the charts for both singers in the 1970s.
In her personal life Natalie was also moving forward and in 1976 shortly after the release of Inseparable, she married her producer Marvin Yancy. They settled into their life together and as Marvin they welcomed a son, Robert Adam ‘Robbie’ Yancy, in 1977.
Natalie’s career was taking off and her second album Natalie went to gold and reached No 13 in the Billboard Top Albums chart and No 3 in the Top Soul Album charts. Two tracks stand out on the album and proved very popular. Sophisticated Lady and the more jazz themed Mr. Melody. Here is Sophisticated Lady written by Chuck Jackson, Marvin Yancy and Natalie Cole. Uploaded by rene cañez
This was followed up with Natalie’s third album Unpredictable which was her first to reach Platinum status. It was No. 8 in the Billboard top albums and No. 1 top soul albums. Two tracks were released in 1977 from the album, I’ve Got Love On My Mind which reached No1 in R&B chart, and Party Lights which also did well. The last track on the album became hugely popular at Natalie’s live concerts with her fans. Here is I’m Catching Hell uploaded by IloveArethaFranklin
In 1977 the label released Natalie’s fourth album and second to go Platinum. Thankful included the track Our Love which was to become another signature hit for the singer and Natalie Cole was the first female artist to have two platinum albums in one year. With her star rising in the industry it was not long before television beckoned and that year Natalie presented her own TV special showcasing other artists such as Earth, Wind and Fire. She also performed on other music shows including Sinatra and Friends.
In 1978 she released her first live album, Natalie Live which included the most popular tracks from previous albums that delighted her concert audiences in addition to new material such as Something’s Got An Hold On Me and the Lennon and McCartney hit Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds which was released as a single. The album reached gold status and did well reaching No 9 in the R&B chart.
Natalie finished off the decade with two more studio albums in 1979, I Love You So and We’re The Best Of Friends, a duet album with Peabo Bryson. Both did reasonably well in the charts and reached gold status and the two singles released from the latter album with Peabo Bryson, also charted at No 8 and 16 in the R&B ratings. Here is What You Won’t Do For Love uploaded by TT V-rus 1138
It had been an extraordinary decade for Natalie Cole as an artist and in 1979 she was awarded her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The path had not always been smooth and following on from some dabbling in recreational drugs whilst at college, Natalie struggled with her addiction to drugs and alcohol throughout the 70s, with some incidents that resulted in both her career and marriage spiralling out of control. Sadly by 1980 Natalie Cole was finding it very difficult to maintain a presence in the charts and next week we will cover the 80s and then the 90s when Natalie Cole began to come back from this difficult and destructive period in her life.
To end today’s post here is Natalie Cole with Don’t Mention My Heartache uploaded by
Buy Natalie Cole Music – .Amazon
About William Price King
William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.
His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.
William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking
William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.
You can find the other artists in the previous series here:
We hope you have enjoyed the series and please let us know as well as share the post with your networks. Please join us next week for part two of the Natalie Cole Story.
Thanks for dropping by.. Sally