On the last day of 2015, the song “Unforgettable” played repeatedly on pop, r&b, contemporary and urban radio stations. Perhaps, the best song to sum up the year, the duet performed in 1991 to a virtual reality by a beloved father and daughter collaboration, the voices of Nat and Natalie Cole informed music lovers of the tragic end of the singing Coles.
Before and after rendition, radio announcers told listeners that the 65-year-old music legend died on New Year’s Eve from congestive heart failure at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
Her son Robert Yancy was by her side.
Reportedly, the daughter of Nat King Cole, a winner of nine Grammy awards, had been ailing and after saying goodbye “I love you all” to her twin sisters Casey and Timolin during the Christmas holidays, peacefully departed.
Those were her last words.
Reportedly, the 54-year-old twins had flown from Florida to Los Angeles, California to be with their famous sibling.
“It’s heartbreaking, she’s fought a very long battle and she’s at peace now,” Casey told the Daily Mail.com
“My twin sister Timolin and I were with Natalie at Christmas time as a family. She told us that she loved us all,” Casey explained.
‘We’re all heartbroken. I’ll miss my sister very much. We’re suffering but she’s not. She’s in heaven now and she’s ringing in the New Year in ways we don’t know.”
Pop fans will recall her many hits including the best-selling “This Will Be” and the collaboration she technically orchestrated with her famous father singing “Unforgettable,” a timeless song he executed during an illustrious recording career that ended when he died in his sleep in 1965 from cancer.
The end to a year that provided a mixed-bag of nostalgia ranging from the glee of discovery of water on Mars, Olympian Bruce Jenner’s gender-transition to Caitlyn, a Greek debt crisis, the absurdities of political campaign rhetoric from presidential candidates; mass shootings and over-proliferation of gun violence, a terrorist’s attack on Paris, France, the warmest December in recorded history and the reality of global warming, a joyous Papal visit with Pope Francis, revelations about terrorism — Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Qaeda — and a myriad of good and bad news proved unforgettable.
Notwithstanding, on the lighter side of the music spectrum in Jamaica, a turn-around lifestyle change announced reggae, dancehall’s raunchiest purveyor Lady Saw cutting ties with secular music to only perform the gospel.
Saw’s fans were stunned by the Christian conversion she revealed to subscribe to going forward but many say they will embrace the new Marion Hall with the same fervor that endeared them to rally to the once provocative and often erotic performer.
Through it all in 2015, controversy brewed, peaking before disappearing from the headlines.
One that still lingers into the New Year is the decision by Billboard Magazine to name British soul singer Joss Stone, the best reggae artist of the year. The news triggered loud grumbles in Jamaica that the choice was an insult to local recorders on the island.
The music Bible crowned the Brit following sales of more than 27, 500 copies of her “Water For Your Soul” CD.
The album also copped kudos as the best album of the year.
That the British singer nabbed the title outselling Bob Marley’s retro release by a two to one margin also proved disquieting to more than a few.
Bob Marley and the Wailers ended with a second place finish in 2015 for a live recording titled “Easy Skanking in Boston ’78.”
After the announcement, dancehall deejay Bounty Killa asked: “What measures are implemented for a genre birthed on the island which is widely celebrated elsewhere, giving others the chance to benefit more than us?
“How many more Matisyahus, Eddy Murphys and Josh Stones will there be to benefit more than our people who do not fall short on talent?”
Billboard responded saying that Stone’s “Water For Your Soul” sold the most of any reggae composition. The fact for eight weeks the album occupied the number one position on the weekly Reggae Albums Chart during 2015 also contributed to her prized win.
“The weekly Reggae Albums Chart ranks the top-selling current reggae albums in the United States, based on weekly sales, according to Nielsen Music.
The Billboard chart year began on Dec. 6, 2014 and ended on Nov. 28, 2015.
Considered an up-tempo number from the album, one song pays tribute to reggae veteran Cocoa Tea. She also acknowledged the music of Jamaican reggae stars Barrington Levy and Inner Circle with songs “On The Telephone” and “Bad Boys.”
Cocoa Tea did not endorse the entire album but said he is not offended by Stone’s success. He said that a high-profile artist such as Stone is perhaps what the genre needs in order to revive the profile of the music and Jamaican artists.
“Anything like dis good fi di music. I nuh inna di crab inna barrel thing yuh nuh,” he said. “I hear people a cuss ‘bout dis Billboard thing, but to be honest, a people like she keep the music alive.”
“At least she show appreciation,” Cocoa Tea added.
Soundscan, the sales music monitor attributed Stone’s neo-soul fans as the biggest buyers of her product. That alone named her product, the best-selling Reggae Album Of The Year.
Although Stone’s release was not nominated for a Grammy in 2015, Grammy-nominated Jah Cure’s album “The Cure” sold a fraction of Stone’s with only 10,500 copies sold.
And the downward spiral in numbers for Grammy nominated reggae family artists Morgan Heritage for their “Strictly Roots” composition only managed less than half Cure’s figures with 5,000 copies.
Worst of all is the pitiful 1,100 copies registered sold for Grammy-nominee Luciano’s “Zion Awake.”
Winning is not new to Stone.
She won a Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance with the song “You Had Me.”
And helped by Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley on the production of this reggae-filled CD with a guest appearance adding to its credentials, her fans invested in the singer and the songs she compiled.
While some argue that she is not a reggae singer, arguably she too will admit to not being anything close.
That being said, it should be noted that the reggae singers are not selling or more blatantly put, fans of reggae artists are not investing in the music they claim belong to them.
Stone sings — reggae, blues, rhythm and blues, funk, rock whatever soothes her palate. That’s her prerogative.
Throughout her 28 years, she has recorded six albums and in the process endeared fans to listen and buy into her music.
Until home-grown reggae artist begin to convince reggae fans that their music is worthy of ownership, the grumbles will continue into perpetuity.
Some we lost in 2015
New York Governor Mario Cuomo, singers Percy Sledge, Lesley Gore, Ben E. King, BB King, actor Omar Shariff, Bobby Kristina Brown, Yafeu Osei AKA calypsonian Rootsman, football player Frank Gifford, activist, legislator Julian Bond, actress Judy Carne, basketball player and Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, reggae singers Peter Broggs and Red Dragon.
Ironically, the death that resonates into 2016 is the passing on Dec. 31 of a singer who released 21 albums and inherited her father’s gift of singing sweet melodies.
“She was a lovely and generous person who will be greatly missed,” singer Tony Bennett, a contemporary of Nat King Cole said.
Natalie Cole made 2015 a truly “Unforgettable” year.
Catch you on the Inside!