Sunday, January 03, 2016

98. Natalie Cole

I used to joke around with the lyrics and burst into song, "I craze you like miss you." I drove other people crazy indeed. I was a teen-ager and played the piano for long hours with the old reliable Jingle Song Book Magazine. I was particularly amused with the shifting of the keys in  "Miss You Like Crazy"  and would play it endlessly through the night.  But more than that I was proud to be a Natalie Cole fan. The lady had class, and the bonus was she was Nat King Cole's daughter. Her pinnacle of success came when she did the duets with her late dad's recordings, which was technically marvelous. They sounded like fresh recordings. That was a magical feat considering how Nat King Cole's old recordings sounded on CDs -- they sounded really old.  But the duets with Natalie made them sound new. And I'm not just saying new in the sense of bit rate but also in the sense of artistry. Yet, Natalie Cole soon drifted away from the recording scene. Meanwhile, I graduated from law school and soon found a job, I had more freedom to pursue my musical interests. But there was no new Natalie Cole album in the late 90s and 2000s. So, I indulged instead in Pavarotti, Bocelli, Louis Armstrong, Silje Nergaard, Sting, True Faith, The Dawn,  Rivermaya, Eraserheads, and a lot more, including the boxed set of The Beatles.  Then, about three years ago, a new Natalie Cole album popped out of the iTunes store. It was her Spanish album, which was the first recording she's had in many years. I downloaded the songs immediately, and for several months, it was the only album on my playlist. I listened to it while waiting in traffic, jogging, reading, waiting for the airplane, and whenever I wanted to lift my spirits. Listening  to familiar songs in another language opens us to the various creative possibilities in life and awakens us to humanity's immense capacity for enjoyment of familiar things. Perhaps, it's just Natalie Cole, the cool mezzo-soprano with that precise diction and clarity of tone.  Who knows? I learned that the songs in the Spanish album were originally Spanish songs but were popular in their English translations. Natalie Cole actually recorded those songs in their original Spanish versions in 2013 and made them sound they were new. Sadly, she had a drug problem, which  was the reason why she stopped recording after those years doing duets with her dad's recorded voices. When she came back with her Spanish album, it was a triumph not only against the drug menace but also against the temptation to wallow in dark obscurity. Indeed, after a string of successes, dark obscurity is tempting and easy, but she came back and it was good. Unfortunately, she is gone now.  Natalie Cole -- she's never going to make old songs sound new again. But I'm thankful for having had the privilege of listening to her in this life. Rest in peace Natalie Cole. 

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