Jan 10, 1981: Natalie Cole Hits Rock Bottom in Hotel Fire

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Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole, daughter of jazz/pop legend Nat King Cole, who passed away at 65 on December 31, 2015, had a career that included both triumphs and low points. The one incident she refers to as “rock bottom” was when the 22-story Las Vegas Hilton caught fire on January 10, 1981, and she didn’t leave her room because she was smoking crack cocaine.

Two years later Cole went into rehab and successfully conquered her addiction issues that first began to plague Cole during her college years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1987, she released the album Everlasting, which propelled her to the top of the charts thanks to singles such as her #5 hit cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.”

On 1991’s Unforgettable…with Love, Cole finally relented to singing songs her famous father recorded after she initially had refused to cover his songs. Cole produced vocal arrangements for the songs, with piano accompaniment by her uncle Ike Cole. She released an interactive duet between herself and her father on the title song, “Unforgettable.” Unforgettable…with Love eventually sold more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone and won several Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.

Cole announced in 2008 that she had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Four months after starting treatment, Cole experienced kidney failure and required dialysis three times a week for nine months. Following her appeal for a kidney on the Larry King Show, she was contacted by an organ procurement agency with a donated kidney from a family requesting that, if there was a match, it be given to Cole. She ultimately had the transplant in 2009.

She died on Dec. 31, 2015, due to congestive heart failure. Her family issued a statement that read, in part, “Our beloved mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain unforgettable in our hearts forever.”

Among those attending her funeral in Los Angeles were Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Lionel Richie, and Chaka Khan.

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