‘Natalie Cole’s Music And Life Give Testimony To Black Girl Magic’ by C. Imani Williams

The 58th Grammy Awards show didn’t do a good job of honoring Natalie Cole. I’m not the only one disappointed with the minuscule tribute offered up for the winner of nine Grammys and over four decades of musical magic. According to ABC News, her sister Timolin Cole shared with the Associated Press that the family was expecting much more.

The music of songstress Natalie Cole came into my life when I was 11 years old. Her release of Inseparable (1975) featured the title track by the same name and “This Will Be.” It was a must have. I wasn’t old enough to really appreciate how deep she was going with the lyrics, but it sounded like something I should look forward to.

When “This Will Be” was released, I was broke. A new (black owned) record store had opened on the corner and I wanted the 45 for my collection. I only needed a buck. I broke a cardinal sin in my household by asking for a dollar from adult company who was visiting my parents from out of town. Not only did I have to return money as soon as my mother found out, I had to take the record back as well.

My plan was to play the record over and over until I could recite the fast part by heart.
“Hugging and squeezing, and kissing and pleasing, Together forever throughever whatever, Yeah yeah yeah you and me. So long as I’m living true love I’ll be giving. To you I’ll be serving cause you’re so deserving!”
That verse was everything! I couldn’t really carry a tune, but I loved Natalie and gave it my best shot.

A couple of years later, Cole would bring down the house at the famed Masonic Temple in Detroit. The concert was on a Wednesday and ended after eleven o’clock. I knew the next day at school would be great since I had all the business on Natalie Cole’s performance. If only social media had been around in the late 70’s!

Natalie was like a cool auntie. Her songs touched on real life issues. Three decades after its release, Cole’s “Annie Mae” speaks to the epidemic of girls gone missing each year, many lost to human trafficking.

A string of hits, some fast and others slow, kept Cole in our hearts. Her battle with addiction was talked about and prayed over by fans. Cole stayed true to her recovery goals after she entered treatment in 1983. She remained clean for 30 year, beating odds against drug addiction—she came back to woo fans.

In 2000, Cole authorized a made-for-television movie about her life, Living For Love: The Natalie Cole Story. She didn’t hide in shame. Instead she reached deep into the waters of Black Girl Magic, not only sharing her story digitally, but also writing her autobiography: Angel On My Shoulders, and engaging in dialogue with the recovery community.

Cole’s talent and tenacity to do the self-work needed for healing is noble. Her story is an inspiration to others. Natalie Cole–the Diva will be greatly missed.

Copyright 2016 by C. Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

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