Singer Natalie Cole has been laid to rest and remembered as a loyal friend, “the best and bossiest big sister” and a worthy successor to her famous father’s legacy, at a funeral in Los Angeles.
The nearly three-hour service at West Angeles Church of God in Christ was filled with music and affection for the daughter of crooner Nat King Cole, who carved out her own Grammy Award-winning legacy during a 40-year career.
Natalie, 65, died on New Year’s Eve of pulmonary arterial hypertension, which led to heart failure. She was known for effortlessly crossing R&B, pop and jazz genres with such hits as This Will Be (An Everlasting Love), Inseparable, and Our Love.
Casey Cole Hooker described her sister as “a warrior in the best sense of the word”.
“In the end her body simply began to give out and it shut down. She was long accepting of what was coming and trying to make us OK,” she said.
Casey’s twin, Timolin Cole Augustus, read a condolence letter from US president Barack Obama to the singer’s 38-year-old son Robert Yancy.
Among the several hundred mourners were singers Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder, along with Natalie’s frequent producer David Foster, actress Angela Bassett and civil rights activist the Rev Jesse Jackson.
Stevie played harmonica and sang The Lord’s Prayer, getting the crowd on its feet and cheering at the end.
“We must continue the spirit and kindness that this woman gave the world,” he said.
“She left this country where people are so divided. We speak of love but we don’t do love. We’ve got a lot of work to do, Natalie, and we will do it in the spirit of you.”
Lionel recalled the extra pressure Natalie faced trying to make it in the entertainment industry as the daughter of a legendary singer.
“She conquered and stepped up and rose above it all,” he said. “I will always remember her laughter, her humour, her silliness, that voice and, more importantly, her friendship. There were many moments she was down and she picked me up.”
Natalie was frank about the fierce drug addiction that gripped her for several years until she went to rehab and overcame it in the 1980s. She was later diagnosed with hepatitis C, which she attributed to her addiction, and had a kidney transplant in 2009.
Those issues contributed to her health woes in recent years even as she maintained a busy performing schedule.
Timolin said her sister answered to the nickname Sweetie among family. Casey smiled while recalling her as “always the best and bossiest big sister”.
The twin sisters contributed background vocals to a song on Natalie’s last album recorded in Spanish in 2013. She urged her siblings to “watch their pitch” before the session began.
“That was the end of our recording career,” Timolin said.
Natalie was later interred privately at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, near her father, her mother Maria, and adopted siblings Carole and Nat Kelly Cole.