Written by | Ray Cornelius 

It is with great sadness to report that Grammy-winning R&B and jazz music singer-songwriter, actress, and musical ambassador Natalie Cole has passed away at the age of 65.  TMZ first broke the news earlier today stating that she had died from congestive heart failure at a Los Angeles hospital.  Ms.Cole had dealt with a myriad of health issues over the last few years stemming from her battle with Hepatitis C and complications from a kidney transplant. She was the daughter of the late jazz icon Nat King Cole and niece of Atlanta based jazz pianist and vocalist Freddy Cole.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and working with Ms. Cole last summer when she played Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Centre as part of Jazz 91.9 WCLK 41st Anniversary.  I had worked very closely with her road manager Annie Bloom and secured Ms. Cole’s transportation needs for the engagement. I also helped to create marketing materials for the show including the image below.  That red dress was everything!

IMG_2338-2I remember being back stage that Friday night and watching Ms. Cole from the wings as she thrilled the audience with a few jazz standards including “Fever,” “A Tisket A Tasket,” “Smile,” “Route 66” and “Summertime.” Like so many times before, I rarely get to see the actual performance because I am usually back stage getting prepared for any after show needs but this time I watched. What I enjoyed the most was her medley of 70’s hits like “This Will Be,” “Inseparable” and “I’m Catching Hell.” Seeing the audience’s reaction to her calculated “oohs and aahs” was priceless and for some reason, I knew it was a moment in time that I would never witness again.

After the show, I helped facilitate a small meet and greet and photo opportunity with Ms. Cole and the radio station staff, board members, and supporters. Up close, she appeared to be very fragile, almost breakable but still in good spirits while taking pictures and listening to the numerous stories about her music and influence.  Most of all, I remember her beautiful smile and awe struck look in those light brown eyes as she greeted each and every fan.


(Mark Angel, RC, Juanita Parks, Ms. Cole, Tammy Nobles and Aaron Cohen)

I am truly blessed and humbled that God allowed me to share that moment in time and space with her.  Ms. Cole’s music has always been and always will be a part of the soundtrack to my life. From tunes like “Unforgettable” to “Mr. Melody” to “Pink Cadillac” to “Take A Look,” each one of them are reminders of people, places, and things in my past that I will cherish forever. Thank you so much Ms. Cole for the years upon years of timeless music and melodies that will live on throughout the ages.

Rest in Power!

Ray Cornelius

Photo Credits: Ray Cornelius and Allen Blue Photography