I grew up listening to Nat King Cole’s music at our home. He was one of my mother and dad’s favorite artists. So I was drawn to her smooth voice which matched her father only octaves higher. That led me to really enjoy her duet with her late father in 1991 on “Unforgettable.” It was nearly three decades since his death and modern technology allowed the marrying of the voices of this father/daughter pair. Smooth – it was smooth.
While “Unforgettable” was not her biggest hit, it at least made a sizable dent into three Billboard charts. Since it was an adult contemporary recording, it was natural that it placed at the #3 mark on the A/C charts. Since her primary chart success came on the R&B charts, it did well there peaking at #10 – even though it was not typical fare for this genre in 1991. Finally as she had five previous Top 10 singles on the Hot 100, it did well overall on this mainstream chart as it took the #14 slot.
While her dad had a hit with the song in 1951, it was originally recorded in mono. In 1961, Cole returned to the Capitol studios and re-recorded the song in stereo. It was this version from which his voice was extricated from the original tracks and a near perfect recreation of the Nelson Riddle arrangement was accomplished with current studio musicians. The primary instrumental difference was the addition of Pete Christlieb’s alto sax lead during the break. Nat’s parts were inserted along with his daughter’s voice to make an unforgettable performance.
“Unforgettable . . . with Love,” the tribute album of her father’s music, was a huge success selling over seven million copies and earning six Grammy awards in the process. “Unforgettable” specifically earned the Grammy for Record of the Year and the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Performance. It was this genre of standards in which Natalie reveled and became her calling card for years to follow.
The 65 year old Natalie Cole died Thursday night at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles “due to complications from ongoing health issues.” We’re sorry to see you part, but Natalie, you’ll always be a part of us – truly unforgettable. Rest in Peace.