NEW YORK: Singer Natalie Cole, the daughter of jazz legend Nat “King” Cole, who overcame substance abuse to find success in her own right, has died at age 65, her family said Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Cole, who had longstanding health issues, including complications from a kidney transplant, died on New Year’s Eve at a Los Angeles hospital.
“Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived—with dignity, strength and honor,” her family said in a statement.
Quoting her most identifiable song, the family said: “Our beloved mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain unforgettable in our hearts forever.”
Tributes quickly came in. The civil rights leader Jesse Jackson mourned Cole on Twitter as a “sister beloved . . . of substance and sound. May her soul rest in peace.”
In contrast to the rags-to-riches stories of many other artists of her generation, Cole was raised in relative affluence in Los Angeles.
Her career was inextricably linked to that of her father.
She had her first break performing in clubs as the daughter of Nat “King” Cole, but struggled to find her niche singing more modern R&B numbers.
After delving into R&B, soul and pop, Cole achieved her greatest success in 1991 by returning to some of the classics sung by her father.
Her album, Unforgettable . . . With Love, won the Grammy for Album of the Year and has sold more than 7 million copies in the United States.
In a technical feat considered novel in the day, Cole sang the title track—with its elegant, string-backed opening line “Unforgettable, that’s what you are”—in a duet with her father who had died in 1965.
Cole later pursued a career in acting, appearing in several prime-time US series. But her life was marred by personal woes including drug use and three divorces. She related these struggles in a 2000 autobiography titled Angel on My Shoulder.
In her autobiography, Cole narrated how she struggled with depression, most painfully after the death of her father and the near-drowning of her son in a swimming pool.
Cole became addicted to crack cocaine and heroin, even at times sharing needles with audience members. She repeatedly sought rehab but later was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and liver disease.
She underwent a kidney transplant in 2009, which inspired her second book.
Tony Bennett, the 89-year-old jazz and big band singer who performed both with her and her father, hailed Natalie Cole as “a lovely and generous person who will be greatly missed.”