Natalie Cole, R&B Icon, Has Died


Natalie Cole, the singer whose career spanned four decades and who was the daughter of Nat King Cole, died Thursday in a Los Angeles hospital from congestive heart failure, TMZ reports. She was 65.

Cole debuted in 1975 with Inseparable, from which her chart-topping and still-iconic single “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” was derived. That album, and its follow-up Natalie (“Sophisticated Lady”) were critical and audience favorites; both topped the Billboard 100. By 1979, she would have seven albums—two platinum—a television special, and her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Cole was nearly as prolific during the 1980s, though her success was not as meteoric to begin the decade; she struggled publicly with drug addiction, as she detailed in her 2000 biography, Angel on My Shoulder. Cole had become addicted to heroin and worked briefly as a prostitute in the early 1970s, but kicked cold turkey before her massive success. The fame and the ‘80s, however, brought cocaine, and by 1983 she had enrolled in rehab for her habit. “I have been to hell and back,” Cole told ABC News in ‘00. “I have seen the edge. I have seen the dark side of life.”

She bounced back spectacularly, and in 1991 scored her first Billboard Number One in the form of Unforgettable… With Love, a tribute album of jazz standards that her father had performed. It showed the breadth of her talent and was buoyed by the “Unforgettable” video, a lovely virtual duet with her father more than 20 years before Tupac hologram. (Cole, too, would become a part of rap history, when Nas sampled the song—and featured her in the video—for 2006’s “Can’t Forget About You.”)

From there forward, Cole would enjoy continued success, releasing ten albums over 20 years, writing Angel On My Shoulder, and appearing on various television shows, including Grey’s Anatomy and as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In 2010, Cole released her second memoir, Love Brought Me Back: A Journey of Loss and Gain, this time focusing on her own dialysis and kidney transplant, as well as the loss of her sister Cooke to cancer. That year, she appeared on Larry King Live, where she had first announced that she needed a kidney in 2009. Jessica Argueta, a dying woman who was watching the program and was a fan of Cole’s music, requested that her kidney be donated to her—and it was.

Cole had cancelled performances in recent months due to her hospital stay, an illness TMZ reports was complicated by Hepatitis C. One of her most recent performances, as seen in the photo above, was in March for the SeriousFun Children’s Network; she repeated the charity event in May, where she performed with Carole King.

She was as spectacular as ever.

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Image via AP.

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