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Touched by an Angel
Natalie Cole is the first to admit that her life has been blessed: with talent, with second (and third and fourth...) chances, and with the legacy of her famous and beloved father, Nat "King" Cole. But Natalie is also the first to come clean to the fact she has tested these blessings countless times, pushing the very limits of the angel she believes to be watching over her. And, as she admits in her new autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, there were times when the gifts that have allowed her to experience such tremendous success seemed an unimaginable burden.
In an extremely personal memoir, Cole recounts -- in what borders on lurid detail -- the highs and lows of her life and 25-year singing career. The lows are devastating and, as Cole candidly tells, more often than not dealt by her own self-destructive hand. After her father's death when she was 15, Cole's life descended into a downward spiral of drug addiction that only intensified with her burgeoning career as a singer. Cole's addictions ranged from LSD experimentation in college, which almost ended with her jumping out a dormitory window, to heroin addiction in her early 20s, which resulted in arrest, to cocaine dependence, which drove away her first husband, jeopardized custody of her son, and all but killed her career.
But Angel on My Shoulder is about more than letting the skeletons out of the closet. For the now drug-free Cole, sharing her story is a way to give credit to the spiritual forces she believes to have been at work in her life, pulling her from the brink of death time and time again. Cole believes the angel on her shoulder has also lent a hand to help her reach some of the amazing heights she has scaled professionally. In addition to her numerous Grammy Awards, Cole was the first black female pop singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. And after undergoing serious drug rehabilitation in 1984, she was able to get her career back on track.
It is no coincidence that Cole's ultimate comeback occurred with her 1991 Unforgettable album, which paid tribute to her father's music and included a bittersweet, digitally created duet of the same name, sung with Nat King Cole himself. After spending the greater part of her adult life both repressing her grief over the loss of her father and struggling to emerge from his shadow, Cole's saving grace seems to have been embracing the legacy of her namesake. Unforgettable, indeed.