Jamaica Gleaner / For nearly a decade, Natalie Cole lived and performed in the shadow of her famous father, Nat King Cole. It was a welcome feeling for a pre-teen and early teenager to know that the man who so many adored and admired was her dad, or to be continuously referred to as, 'the daughter of'.
'The daughter of' became almost a title for her, and kept following her around, almost competing with her own shadow. But sometimes in life, the thing that you are most attached to returns to haunt you.
As the years went by, the quasi-title 'The daughter of' kept coming at her and followed her through public grammar school, prep school, high school, college and throughout her early stage and club career.
Almost all the billings for her early performances contained the phrase, which was understandably used by promoters to attract fans.
But to Cole, it was becoming unbearable and wasn't going down well with her. She started to feel she was being cheated of her own identity.
There was no doubt she loved and adored her father dearly, but having reached a point in life when adolescent was ceasing to be the prefix of woman, coupled with her emerging status as a recording star, she felt it was time she had an identity of her own. She wanted the focus shifted from 'The daughter of' to Natalie Cole.
"I felt as though I didn't have an identity of my own and wasn't sure whether people liked me for me, or because of who my dad was," she was quoted as saying.
In one of her early engagements at a restaurant in Greenfield, Massachusetts, she was greeted as she entered, with a signboard that said, 'Appearing Tonight: Nat King Cole's Daughter'.
She was furious, "Hello? I mean, not even my own name, just "The daughter of," she retorted.
She proceeded to tell the manager that if he didn't take down that damned sign, she wasn't going to perform. But the damage was already done.
The room was full and she knew it was because of that sign. She hated it, but perhaps, it was a dilemma she had to live with for some time.
Naturally, the situation built within young Natalie resentment insofar as it related to performing or recording her father's songs - a regular request from patrons at her shows.
Steering clear of them was also a way of downplaying memories of her father's death, some five years earlier on February 15, 1965.
"It was a very emotional thing to me. I resented being asked to sing his music. I wanted to sing what-ever I wanted to sing. I couldn't understand all the comparing, and furthermore, the last thing I felt capable of doing was filling my father's shoes," she said in her autobiography.
At one point, Cole became tremendously guilt-ridden by the fact that she was supposed to be entering grad school to pursue her masters in psychology but she really wanted to pursue music.
She loved what she was doing, but didn't understand why she was doing it, other than people kept telling her that she had talent and should be a singer.
The pressures kept mounting. Her musicians thought that a career in music would be the most natural thing for her. In the end, she struck a bargain with herself, deciding to perform for a year, and then hit grad school in the fall of 1973.
The amazing twist to all of this was that by 1991, after a dazzling recording career that began in 1975, Cole turned around and displayed quite the opposite sentiments to those she had two decades earlier concerning her father's songs.
Becoming more mature, and faced with the reality that she was unable to say goodbye to him (she was at boarding school at the time), Natalie now felt a desire for some kind of closure.
Perhaps the best way was to do an album of his songs.
"I was thinking about it from the emotional place of a little girl, who was getting a chance to do something for her father, as well as a chance to say, 'I love you,'" she reminisced in that autobiography.
The album, Unforgettable , in which she covered 22 of her dad's songs, told the story.
It was her biggest success, selling some five million, topping the Billboard, pop and jazz charts and winning for her, one of her seven Grammys.
'The daughter of' had transitioned into a megastar and was no longer shackled by that title, and so it no longer mattered.
One of the major demons that haunted Cole throughout her life - not being able to say 'goodbye' or 'I love you' to her dad - was laid to rest with the album.
The other major demon in her life, apart from drugs, was to be told by her mother that her father left nothing in his will for her and her siblings.
Natalie's mother, Maria said he left everything to her, and after her death, they would basically get everything that was left.
The understanding was that Maria would care for her young children. The issue concerning the viewing of the will came up occasionally, but to no avail.
One day in June 1990, the siblings were called to a meeting at a law office in Century City, to sign off on papers to authorise tax payments for a trust fund, and it was there that the true story began to unfold.
Cole was allowed to see her father's last will and testament for the first time. Prepared in 1960, the document made provisions for two trusts: one designated for Maria, and the other for all his children.
Another demon that had haunted her was laid to rest, and the burden that her father had forgotten her was lifted.
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