Natalie Cole

It's easy to assume that Natalie Cole's journey through the music world would naturally be an easy one. As the daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole, she's obviously inherited the good looks and silky voice that helped make her father famous ages ago. Back when she was cranking out her initial string of hits in the late '70s, such as, "I've Got Love on My Mind" and "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)," her path to permanent stardom was all but assured. What most people didn't know was that behind closed doors, Cole was learning all about the hard times and hard lessons that accompany years of hard drug use. She's overcome serious substance-abuse problems that nearly wrecked her, survived three marriages, and lived a life more fitting to a blues star than a jazzy R&B singer. Yet at 57, she still presses on. The eight-time Grammy Award winner recently released her 20th album, Leavin', to solid reviews, and it won't be surprising if it lands her another golden gramophone to add to her collection. With a style that encompasses so many genres (soul, gospel, lounge, jazz, and contemporary R&B), catching her locally for an intimate performance is an event that shouldn't be missed.

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Jonathan Cunningham