Natalie Cole's move to singing was accidental. Cole was a pre-med student at the University of Massachusetts when a friend — who was singing with a local group — got ill the night of a show and asked whether Cole would stand in for him. He had heard her sing informally at parties. She ended up taking his place in the group and setting medicine aside.
Cole's name helped and hurt. It resulted in a lot of club bookings, but also led to embarrassing moments like the night one club marquee read, "Appearing tonight: The daughter of Nat King Cole."
Cole's ace in the hole was the fact she really could sing.
The nine-time Grammy winner underwent a kidney transplant in May 2009 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She had revealed in 2008 that she had been diagnosed with hepatitis C, the result of her drug use in the 1970s and '80s, and her kidneys had failed after she went through treatment.
When she died on New Year's Eve 2015 at Cedars Sinai Hospital, her publicist Maureen O’Connor said Cole had she never fully recovered from a kidney transplant.
— Robert Hilburn and Randy Lewis in the Los Angeles Times (June 9, 1985 and May 21, 2009) and updated Jan. 1, 2016 with news of her death
Note: An earlier version of this page incorrectly gave her year of birth as 1949.