Natalie Cole was born on Feb. 6, 1950, to Nat Cole and his wife, Maria Cole, who had sung with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Natalie grew up surrounded by music and celebrities, and she made her recording debut as a child, singing with her father on a Christmas album. But after Nat Cole’s death in 1965, she turned away from music. She majored in child psychology and graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1972.
But she was soon singing in clubs — although she resisted singing her father’s material.
“I had to do my own songs in my own way,” she told Rolling Stone in 1977.
She was noticed by producers based in Chicago, Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, who wrote much of her early material. She married Mr. Yancy in 1976, the first of three marriages.
Ms. Cole is survived by her son, Robert Yancy, and her two sisters, Timolin Cole and Casey Cole.
Capitol Records, which was also Nat Cole’s label, signed Natalie Cole and released her 1975 debut album, “Inseparable,” which drew comparisons to Aretha Franklin from reviewers and included the Top 10 single “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love).” She was named Best New Artist at the 1976 Grammy Awards, where “This Will Be” also won as “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.”
Ms. Cole’s third album, “Unpredictable” in 1977, was also a Top 10 pop album. She showed off her acrobatic live vocals on “Natalie Live” in 1978 and made a duet album, “We’re the Best of Friends,” with the R&B crooner Peabo Bryson in 1979. But her pop profile dwindled, in part because of her drug problems.
Her career was revived in 1987, after rehab, with “Everlasting,” which included three Top 10 pop singles: “Jump Start,” the ballad “I Live for Your Love” and her version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.”
Yet it was with “Unforgettable … With Love” in 1991, leaping back to a previous generation’s songs, that Ms. Cole would establish her latter-day career. “Unforgettable” reminded both radio programmers and the record business that there was a large audience for music offering comfort far from the cutting edge.
“The shock of it all is that this record is getting airplay,” Ms. Cole said in an interview at the time. “It’s absolutely shocking to see it between Van Halen and Skid Row on the charts, totally out of its element. It should be encouraging to record companies and my contemporaries.”