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What's so good about Natalie Cole?
Natalie Cole is probably best known in the jazz world for her 1991 release Unforgettable...With Love on which she created a powerful duet by singing along and interacting with a track of her father's performance of "Unforgettable". The album provided Natalie with a dramatic break from what had been a career based primarily in the R&B world (a world in which she had immense success), earned six Grammy Awards, and sold more than 14 million copies worldwide. In case you need a refresher, here's the video:
Natalie Cole's father, of course, is pianist and velvet-voiced singer Nat King Cole. But Natalie is so much more than just her father's daughter. She released hit after hit in the 1970s, and continued with acclaimed releases in the 1980s and 1990s. As I always say, when it comes to singers, for me it starts with the voice...and Natalie has a powerful instrument. But the voice is just a starting point - what truly distinguishes Natalie as an outstanding vocalist is how she uses her voice: the passion with which she sings, the way she interprets melodies. In this clip, I'm entranced from her first note:
Taking on a tune like "Smile" - a true classic which has been oft-covered - is brave, even for a veteran like Natalie Cole. But in this performance she makes the tune unequivocally hers - it's her phrasing, her embellishments - and I'm knocked out by the poise and passion with which she sings.
Beyond her musical presence, I'm fascinated by Natalie Cole's story. She doesn't hide her past drug use, her illness (Hepatitis C) and the kidney transplant she needed in order to survive. In fact, in 2010 she released her memoir, called Love Brought Me Back, which tells of the highs and lows of her career. I often wonder whether the lows experienced by an artist - even if self-inflicted - enhance that artist's output; Natalie seems to refer to this query in a roundabout way in this clip, in which she talks about the 2008 release Still Unforgettable:
Natalie Cole is an outstanding artist who has had quite the journey. Her performance will provide a special opportunity to see her once again at the top of her game.