An artist whose work has been making an impact on the music world since her 1975 debut album, Inseparable, (which went gold and won two Grammy awards) Cole's career is rich in achievement and accomplishment. As the daughter of one of the most important vocalists of the 20th century, Cole was exposed to the music of artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Vaughan and Dinah Washington at an early age. By the time she had reached her teens, she was also listening to the soulful sounds of Aretha Franklin and the rock and roll of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Natalie Cole sings "Unforgettable" at The White House.
White House photo by Susan Sterner.
All of those influences helped inform Cole's own musical choices. Her musical heritage, married with her love for pop, rock, R&B and gospel, combined to form her highly personal, distinctive vocal style. The record-buying public was instantly smitten: winning a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1976, she racked up an astounding thirty charted singles over a fifteen-year period including now-classic tunes like "This Will Be", "I've Got Love On My Mind" , "Our Love", and in the '80s, "Pink Cadillac" and "I Miss You Like Crazy". The recipient of countless accolades including NAACP Image and Soul Train Music Awards, Cole has enjoyed an ongoing love affair with music buyers worldwide, resulting in major best-selling albums including 1976's Natalie (gold), 1977's Unpredictable and Thankful (both platinum) and 1979's I Love You So (gold).
Natalie Cole's career reached new heights in the early '90s: the revered and critically acclaimed Unforgettable, With Love sold an amazing fourteen million copies worldwide and earned seven Grammy Awards. In addition to its sales success, the album catapulted the internationally renowned performer to a new level of recognition and acceptance. Performing songs first made famous by her father, she appeared in concert with a full orchestra; in short measure, her audience expanded to include jazz and traditional pop aficionados who were equally impressed with 1993's Take a Look and 1996's Stardust which included the Grammy-winning version of "When I Fall In Love", a duet with her father.
Natalie Cole performs before an
audience which includes the President
and Laura Bush.
White House photo by Susan Sterner.
In 1999, Elektra Records released Snowfall on the Sahara which showcased Cole on an array of pop and R&B songs; the same year, the label issued The Magic of Christmas, a collection of holiday standards performed with the London Symphony Orchestra. That album included a father-and-daughter duet of the famed "Christmas Song" and was a logical follow up to 1994's jazz-inflected Christmas set, Holly and Ivy.
Cole completed her tenure with Elektra in 2000 with the release of Greatest Hits Volume 1. The album was issued to coincide with the publication of the singer's revealing autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, co-authored with Digby Diehl. The book made its appearance on national best-seller lists, and NBC adapted the book for a television film called The Natalie Cole Story, which was directed by actor/director Robert Townsend. Cole (who was a producer on the film) won an NAACP Image Award for her appearance in the acclaimed biopic.
Since launching her acting career in 1992, Natalie Cole has appeared in a number of key roles including the much-acclaimed USA Network Premiere Movie, Lily In Winter in 1994. Other highlights include her appearance with Laurence Fishburne in the HBO made-for-TV move Always Outnumbered in 1998, and a key role in the Showtime telefilm Freak City in 1999. While her acting skills have justifiably earned her rave reviews, music remains at the very heart of a career that spans close to three decades.
The aptly-titled Ask a Woman Who Knows finds Natalie Cole continuing her exploration of new avenues for musical expression: "I like to grow and experiment and as an artist, it's about kicking the bar up a little. That's what I did with this album." Her signing to Verve Records says much about her approach as she begins the next phase of her musical journey: "People say I look younger than the music I'm doing just because the songs are older. Hopefully I can keep my youthful look!" she grins. "It gives me more access to a broader audience who get to hear some of these wonderful songs." Done, of course, with that special Cole touch and always, with love.