LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Singer Natalie Cole, the daughter of jazz legend Nat King Cole who carved out her own considerable success with R&B hits like “Our Love” and “This Will Be” before triumphantly intertwining their legacies to make his “Unforgettable” their signature hit through technological wizardry, has died. She was 65.
Publicist Maureen O’Connor says Cole died of congestive heart failure Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. O’Connor had no details about how or where Cole died.
Cole’s family members, Robert Yancy, Timolin Cole and Casey Cole released a written statement that reads in part: “It is with heavy hearts that we bring to you all the news of our mother and sister’s passing. Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived — with dignity, strength and honor. Our beloved mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain unforgettable in our hearts forever.”
Cole was born in 1950 to Nat “King” Cole and his wife, Maria Ellington Cole, a onetime vocalist with Duke Ellington who was no relation to the great bandleader.
Natalie Cole grew up in Los Angeles’ posh Hancock Park neighborhood, where her parents had settled in 1948 despite animosity from some white residents about having the black singer as a neighbor. When told by residents who said they didn’t want “undesirable people” in the area, the singer said, “Neither do I, and if I see (any), I’ll be the first to complain.”
The family eventually included five children.
Natalie Cole started singing seriously in college, performing in small clubs.
Natalie Cole was inspired by her dad at an early age and auditioned to sing with him when she was just 11 years old. She was 15 when he died of lung cancer, in 1965.
She began as an R&B singer but later gravitated toward the smooth pop and jazz standards that her father loved.
Her father was already a recording star, and he rose to greater heights in the 1950s and early ’60s. He toured worldwide, and in 1956 he became the first black entertainer to host a national TV variety show, though poor ratings and lack of sponsors killed it off the following year. He also appeared in a few movies and spoke out in favor of civil rights.
While Cole was a Grammy winner in her own right, she had her greatest success in 1991 when she re-recorded her father’s classic hits — with him on the track — for the album “Unforgettable … With Love.” It became a multiplatinum smash and garnered her multiple Grammy Awards, including album of the year.
Another father-daughter duet, “When I Fall in Love,” won a 1996 Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals, and a follow-up album, “Still Unforgettable,” won for best traditional pop vocal album of 2008.
Cole made her recording debut in 1975 with “Inseparable.” The music industry welcomed her with two Grammy awards in 1976 — one for best new artist and one for best female R&B vocal performance for her buoyant hit “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love).”
She also worked as an actress, with appearances on TV’s “Touched by an Angel” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
But she was happiest touring and performing live.
Natalie Cole had battled drug problems and hepatitis that forced her to undergo a kidney transplant in May 2009. Cole’s older sister, Carol “Cookie” Cole, died the day she received the transplant. Their brother, Nat Kelly Cole, died in 1995.
In her 2000 autobiography, “Angel on My Shoulder,” Cole discussed how she had battled heroin, crack cocaine and alcohol addiction for many years. She spent six months in rehab in 1983.
When she announced in 2008 that she had been diagnosed with hepatitis C, a liver disease spread through contact with infected blood, she blamed her past intravenous drug use.
Cole received chemotherapy to treat the hepatitis and “within four months, I had kidney failure,” she told CNN’s Larry King in 2009. She needed dialysis three times a week until she received a donor kidney on May 18, 2009. The organ procurement agency One Legacy facilitated the donation from a family that had requested that their donor’s organ go to Cole if it was a match.
Cole toured through much of her illness, often receiving dialysis at hospitals around the globe.
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