An ‘unforgettable’ encounter with Natalie Cole
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - January 5, 2016 - 9:00am


That’s what you are

Tho’ near or far

Like a song of love that clings to me

How the thought of you does things to me

Never before has someone been more

Unforgettable in every way

And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay

That’s why darling it’s incredible

That someone so unforgettable

Thinks that I am so unforgettable too

The picture on this page was taken some six years ago when Natalie Cole came to perform at the Araneta Coliseum. After the concert, producer Glenn Llamas of Wilbros Production invited Jojo Gabinete and me to meet and greet Natalie back stage. Natalie was very charming, very accommodating, even agreeing to have a picture with us.

In contrast, during the show, she was obviously not in a good mood although she performed as well as expected. Sometimes, she would stop in the middle of a song and order those in the audience taking video shots to stop it already. “That guy over there,” Natalie would point to the Upper Box section and, at other times, to the Patron section, “I told you to stop doing it!” She sounded very irritated, distracted from her singing.

So when Glenn asked us if we wanted to see Natalie, Jojo and I were at first hesitant. We shouldn’t have been. Natalie was cool, smiling widely, and stayed between Jojo and me for the photo op. When the photo was developed, we noticed a plaster on the right side of Natalie’s chest, so white thus it stood out against her dark skin.

That’s when we learned why Natalie was somewhat grumpy during the show. We were told that earlier that afternoon, she had undergone dialysis. She was suffering from a kidney ailment.

When Jojo and I heard the news that Natalie died Thursday, Dec. 31, at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles at age 65, we felt sad, maybe because we somehow felt “connected” to Natalie because of that brief but, to quote the title of her hit duet (through “technological wizardry”) with her late dad Nat “King” Cole, “unforgettable” encounter where she touched us in a magical way that her songs never fail to do, among them Miss You Like Crazy, Someone That I Used To Love, I Live For Your Love, When I Fall In Love and many more. She also recorded a follow-up to Unforgettable, titled Still Unforgettable.

According to the statement by her son Robert Yancy and sisters Timolin and Casey Cole, “Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived…with dignity, strength and honor. Our mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever.”

One news report noted that Natalie had battled drug problems and hepatitis that forced her to undergo a kidney transplant in May 2009 (several weeks before she came for that Big Dome concert), adding that Natalie was inspired by her dad at an early age, sang with him when she was 11 and lost her dad to lung cancer in 1965 when she was 15.

After that Big Dome concert, Natalie performed in the same venue twice in barely two years as part of the David Foster & Friends Tour, the second having been in August last year, together with Charice, Ruben Studdard and Mark Mabasa.

Charice: “Breaks my heart, Natalie. I will always remember you. I’m glad to have known you. Thank you for your words. Thank you for everything. Thank you for your songs. Unforgettable, that’s what you are... I love you, Natalie.”

Vicki Belo: “I met Natalie years back through my friend David Foster. I found Natalie to be very elegant, classy and down-to-earth, unlike some Hollywood superstars. She told me that she had a difficult life, but she was wonderful and warm. She is truly unforgettable and I’m sure she’ll continue to make beautiful music in heaven.”

The STAR did an exclusive interview with Natalie in 2009, a few weeks before she came for that first concert.

Here are excerpts:

What were you thinking when you were recording Unforgettable with your father?

“That was 18 years ago…a long time ago. Oh yeah, it was a great moment, it was a very wonderful thing to do, and we were happy that we had found the song that was right for the record. It was a great moment, yeah!”

Of all your dad’s songs, why Unforgettable?

“Why Unforgettable? It’s the best among his songs. His other songs are just as memorable but they don’t have the emotion that Unforgettable has.”

What’s your favorite line from that song?

“Hmmm…Probably this line: It’s incredible that you think I’m unforgettable, too…” (Aside from Unforgettable, Natalie also did her own versions of her father’s well-loved songs such as That Sunday That Summer, Mona Lisa and Too Young.)

What are your fond memories about your father?

“Ahhhh…It was good when he was home for Christmas. He liked to drive fast cars and he was a big sports fan. He loved baseball, all kinds of sport.”

Did he sing you to sleep?

“No, he did not.”

Oh, he did not. Do you remember sitting on his lap with your father humming or singing a song?

“Yeah, we did things like that.”

How much of you is like your father?

“Oh, quite a few things…probably my temperament and my generosity; the way I like people. Like my father, I don’t want to see anyone mistreated, anything like that. I’m very racial-conscious because my father had a lot of, you know, challenges in the area of race. I’m very sensitive to that kind of issue.”

I’m sure you are aware that you are carrying your father’s legacy. Is it such a big responsibility?

“I don’t think anyone can measure up to what my father had achieved. I’m just happy to at least play some of his music but he is really the one who was the pioneer, the one who started all this. He was really The King.”

If your father were in front of you now, what would you tell him? I’m sure he is very proud of you.

“I would just want to tell him how much I love him. I wish we had the time to do more things together. I would just love to drive him around in a sports car.”

What pieces of advice did he give you?

“He didn’t. He was the type who would teach by example and not so much with words. When I was little, I would watch him go to work. He treated people very well. And that’s what I learned from my father — how to treat people very well. I think he showed me how to love your family, your children, even if he wasn’t home very much. He loved us very much. Watching him was my greatest lesson.”

If you were to sing a song to your father, what would it be?

“Hmmmmm…let’s see. A song by another singer…You Are So Beautiful To Me.”

Together at last Up There, Natalie and The King must be happily singing…what else?...Unforgettable!!!



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