The late Natalie Cole was the daughter of legendary singer Nat King Cole. She performed for 40 years, earned 21 Grammy nods, and won nine. And she was the first African American to win Best New Artist.
The singer died on December 31, one of many artists the music world has lost in the past year, among them David Bowie, B.B. King, The Eagle’s Glenn Frey, Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, and Lemmy from Motörhead.
Those musicians, however, were honored with live musical tributes during the awards ceremony, Page Six noted. Cole, however, was remembered in a pre-taped “In Memoriam” segment with other musicians and music executives.
— Holly Robinson Peete (@hollyrpeete) February 16, 2016
Guess we'll have to wait for the BET Awards to give Maurice White and Natalie Cole some proper tributes #GRAMMYS
— Film Fatale NYC (@FilmFatale_NYC) February 16, 2016
Natalie’s image and voice closed the segment along with her father, but both during the Grammys and afterward, fellow celebrities, families, and fans wondered where Cole’s special homage was. She’d earned it, after all, her sisters, Timolin and Casey, told Entertainment Tonight after the ceremony.
“Sadly a FORGETTABLE tribute to Natalie Cole. Words cannot express the outrage and utter disappointment at the disrespectful tribute, or lack thereof, to a legendary artist such as our sister.”
Cole’s son, Robert Adam Yancy, also expressed his disappointment with the half-hearted mention, saying his mother “deserves more than (to be a part of) a minute-and-a-half tribute. It was shameless the way they minimized her legacy. We will find solace in her legacy as well as her endless fans around the world.”
According to People, CNN reporter Chris Witherspoon tweeted much the same, noting Natalie’s nine Grammy wins over David Bowie’s one.
“Natalie Cole… only gets a photo in a remembrance montage. David Bowie… 1 Grammy and he received a 7 minute tribute.”
Natalie, who gave the world R&B classics like “Unforgettable” and “This Will Be,” died at age 65 on December 31. She’d been battling poor health for years and succumbed to idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension.
The snub had actress Holly Robinson Peete questioning why the singer received a mere mention, and the Root agreed with her theory.
“How hard would it have been to pay tribute to a black woman who made music history?” asked writer Yesha Callahan.
Cole’s family didn’t offer that theory, but they did know ahead of the Grammys that she would be “banished” to the “In Memoriam” section, to which they asked, “Where is the tribute to our sister?”
It's weird the Grammys didn't do a Natalie Cole tribute. She has more Grammys and more billboard hits than Bowie but ok.
— ChampagnePetty (@__Dutch) February 16, 2016
So, lots of memorial musical tributes at the #GRAMMYs…many fine men honored. But couldn't spare a moment for Natalie Cole. Ok.
— Elisa Camahort (@ElisaC) February 16, 2016
I still listen to Natalie Cole every year. She introduced me to so many amazing, classic songs. She deserved a much bigger #GRAMMYs tribute.
— Nikki Gottleib (@NikkiGottleib) February 16, 2016
Others, including Eric Benet, knew ahead of time as well. He ranted about the decision before Monday’s airing of the awards ceremony, calling her a “powerhouse of pop, jazz, soul, Grammy artist and no tribute to Natalie Cole. So Grammys, shame on you, shame on you, shame on you.”
“It’s very bittersweet,” Timolin said. “We were hoping that there will be some sort of actual tribute to her fitting of her artistry and stature… She was such a force in the music industry and she transcended genres… I think she should be recognized for the impact she has had.”
Her sister believed there was plenty of room for a medley of her hits to be sung live; Beyonce was rumored to have been given the honor, but that arrangement never bore fruit.
A month after Natalie’s sudden death at the end of 2015, both of her sisters spoke about their last moments with their beloved sister. They visited her in the hospital around Christmas — her favorite time of year, Timolin said.
“When we came to the hospital and spent Christmas Eve with her it was a godsend. We were very blessed and thankful to spend that very special day with her that she loved. It was her favorite time of year.”
What do you think? Was the late singer snubbed?
[Image via s_bukley/Shutterstock]