Natalie Cole

Last year, veteran songstress Natalie Cole continued her second career

in acting by starring with Laurence Fishburne in the HBO drama "Always

Outnumbered." She also filmed a Showtime movie, "Freak City," due this

year.

Cole's musical transformation from R&B vocalist to torch singer was

showcased during the 1998 "Stormy Weather" concert, a Don Henley-

organized Los Angeles benefit for the Walden Woods, Mass., Nature

Conservancy, during which Cole and others, including Joni Mitchell,

Bjork and Shawn Colvin, sang pop standards.

Natalie Cole was born 49 years ago today in Los Angeles. Cole was the

second-oldest child of the legendary crooner Nat "King" Cole, who raised

his family in the wealthy Hancock Park section of Hollywood. Nat died of

lung cancer when Natalie was 15. Natalie later moved to the East Coast

to attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Cole began singing with the group, Black Magic, in local clubs, while

she earned a degree in child psychology. But she also began taking drugs

and was arrested for possession of heroin in Canada in 1973.

In a Chicago club, Cole soon met her first husband, the Rev. Marvin

Yancy, who was a member of the vocal group, the Impressions, along with

Chuck Jackson. The two men began writing songs for Cole and produced her

debut, 1975's Inseparable, a critical and commercial smash. The

LP yielded the hit title track and the top-10 "This Will Be."

More hits followed, including "I've Got Love On My Mind" and "Our Love."

Cole also recorded an album and two R&B hits, "Gimme Some Time" and

"What You Won't Do For Love," with Peabo Bryson.

But in the early '80s, Cole's drug problem sidelined her career. She

bounced back in 1987 with the hit "Jump Start" and soon had a top-5

version of Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac"

Cole changed her musical image and rose to new commercial heights with

1991's multi-Grammy Award winning Unforgettable with Love. On the

smash album, Cole recorded many of her father's hits and "dueted" with a

tape of him singing the

music/Cole,_Natalie/Unforgettable.ram>title track (RealAudio

excerpt). Many artists copied Cole's technical trick later, including

Hank Williams Jr., who sang "with" his late father on a 1992 record.

In 1993, Cole began her acting career with an appearance on the TV drama

"I'll Fly Away." She continued recording pop/jazz standards, issuing

Take a Look, on which she lent her vocals to songs made famous by

legendary song stylists like Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae and others.

She won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for the album.

Cole, who now often tours with a full orchestra, then released 1994's

Holly & Ivy and 1996's Stardust, which included, among

other tracks, the flirtatious

bin/get-music/Cole,_Natalie/Teach_Me_Tonight.ram>"Teach Me

Tonight" (RealAudio excerpt). She is spending the first part of

1999 on the road for U.S. shows.

Other birthdays: Fabian, 56; Punky Meadows (Angel), 49; Axl Rose (Guns

n' Roses), 37; and Rick Astley, 33.