What Natalie Cole Meant To Me

This morning I awoke to news on the radio that singer Natalie Cole had died. At first I wondered if I was dreaming. Then I checked my phone to see Facebook and Twitter and it was confirmed: she passed away New Year’s Eve night at the age of 65.

Natalie Cole meant something to me. I didn’t know her for her 1970s R&B hits, initially. As a child of the 1980s, I remember enjoying her big hits that decade on the Top 40 pop charts. There was “Live For Your Love,” “Pink Cadillac,” and “Miss You Like Crazy.” I have a cassette single of the song “Wild Women Do” somewhere in my basement; it wasn’t as big of a hit as the others, but it was still a hit.

In 1991 or so, I think Natalie Cole really made a name for herself with that “Unforgettable…With Love” CD. On it, she does a “virtual duet” with her late father, Nat “King” Cole, on the beautiful love song, “Unforgettable.”

I was a teenager in high school at the time of “Unforgettable.” While my friends listened to Guns-N-Roses, I had a more eclectic taste in music. Don’t get me wrong– Guns-N-Roses rocked and I even have a cassette tape of me singing “Paradise City” in a professional studio…but I had room in my musical mind for Natalie Cole, too.

In 1993, the World University Games came to Buffalo, NY, and I remember seeing/hearing Natalie Cole and Kenny Rogers in concert at the local football stadium. It was a grand affair and I enjoyed it.

As grunge music and hardcore rap took over the rest of the 1990s to be followed by Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys, I still had Natalie Cole on my mind.

I finally discovered that she had a career in music before her 1980s pop hits. When I heard “This Will Be An Everlasting Love” in a TV commercial, I thought, “What a bright song.” It’s the kind of song that just kind of pops into the air and makes you want to smile or dance, you know?

My dad, who had always had jazz music playing on the radio while I grew up, formed a music band of his own upon retirement from teaching. He and two buddies went around to area nursing homes playing old time hits from Sinatra (of course) and many others who were popular in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

After his lead singer moved to Canada, my dad was in a quandary. He caught me singing “Fly Me To The Moon” one day, and long story short, I became a jazz singer from then on.

And do you know who influenced me most? Natalie Cole and her father, Nat “King” Cole. It was and is the album “Unforgettable…With Love” that I turned to upon becoming a jazz singer. I listened for the rhythm, the phrasing, and, best of all, the sheer joy found in those recordings. Then I emulated it all in order to be the best jazz singer I could be.

I’ve grown as a jazz singer over the years, and even before Natalie Cole passed away I had always been acknowledging her and that “Unforgettable” recording as THE music that helped me become who I am today.

I sing “Unforgettable” in concert these days, and the Seniors love it. I can’t blame them– it’s a well-written, heartfelt song. In my small way, I help keep both Natalie and Nat’s legacy alive.

Now that Natalie Cole, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson are no longer with us, the world is a bit less musical, isn’t it? I miss them all, admiring them as versatile singers who helped write the soundtrack of my life and the lives of so many others– including you, too, right?

Natalie Cole: I miss you like crazy!

The song “Angel On My Shoulder” is perhaps my favorite Natalie Cole song of them all, because of its lyrics that say:

I never thought I’d ever make it, I can’t believe the hell I’ve been through
Couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I didn’t know what to do
I’ve been through the rain, I’ve been through the fire
There was something that I never knew

I had an angel on my shoulder, with a plan for me divine
Must be an angel on my shoulder, who was right there all the time

This world can be so cold and so heartless, It’s hard to find your way alone,
I used to run so fast, no one could catch me
I couldn’t find the way back home, but I’ve laughed, I’ve cried
I almost died, but my broken heart just never knew

I had an angel on my shoulder, with a plan for me divine
Got to be an angel on my shoulder, who was right there
Right there all the time…

Everybody needs someone to cling to
With an unchanging love, I finally found a hand to hold on to
A shelter to run to, now I see He’s watching over me

I’ve got an Angel on my shoulder, with a plan for me divine
Got to be an angel on my shoulder
Who was right there, right there, right there all the time

Goodbye Natalie Cole. May you R.I.P. with angels. –Mark Weber Music Blog

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