Thursday, January 7, 2016

A00590 - Natalie Cole, "Unforgettable" Singer

Natalie Cole performing in 2007. CreditRadek Pietruszka/European Pressphoto Agency
Natalie Cole, a buoyantly jazzy singer who became a million-selling,Grammy Award-winning pop hitmaker with her 1975 debut album and went on to even greater popularity when she followed the example of her father, Nat King Cole, in interpreting pre-rock pop standards, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 65.
The cause was “ongoing health issues,” her family said. Ms. Cole had undergone a kidney transplant in 2009 and had suffered from other ailments recently, forcing the cancellation of tour dates in November and December.
Ms. Cole had a light, supple, perpetually optimistic voice, full of syncopated turns and airborne swoops, drawing on both the nuances of jazz singing and the dynamics of gospel. It brought her million-selling albums in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as she moved from the sound of her own generation to that of her parents.
“The biggest similarities between Ms. Cole and her father are in attitude. Instead of working toward catharsis, they aspire to a genteel elegance, balance and good feeling,” Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times in 1993. “But where the ultimate direction of the father’s singing was an easy chair on a moonlit porch, his daughter’s tenser, more brittle singing evokes an urban, indoor setting. To the decorous phrasing of a big band singer she brings a steady current of soul-music sassiness.”
Ms. Cole performing in Los Angeles in 2008. CreditAndrew Gombert/European Pressphoto Agency
Ms. Cole was equally at home in the pop-soul of her No. 1 1975 hit, “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” and in her technology-assisted duet with her father in 1991, based on his 1951 recording of “Unforgettable.”
Both songs brought her Grammy Awards. The “Unforgettable...With Love” album, on which Ms. Cole sang her father’s hits, also swept the top Grammy Awards — including album, record and song of the year — and sold seven million copies in the United States alone.
Yet over a long career, Ms. Cole recorded broad selections of material, including Tin Pan Alley staples, songs written for her and songs by, among others, Fiona Apple and Bruce Springsteen. Her most recent album, in 2013, was “Natalie Cole en Español,” a collection of Latin pop favorites that was nominated for Latin Grammy Awards.
Ms. Cole repeatedly overcame personal setbacks.
Her first run of success in the 1970s was followed by struggles with heroin, alcohol and crack cocaine addiction in the early 1980s, a period she wrote about in her 2000 autobiography, “Angel on My Shoulder.” (She played herself in “Livin’ for Love: The Natalie Cole Story,” a TV movie based on the book.) She went through rehab in 1983.
“I just can’t have fun with drugs the way some people can,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1985. “They can get high or have a drink and go home. I’m not like that.”
In 2009, as a result of hepatitis C that she believed she had contracted through past intravenous drug use, she underwent chemotherapy and a kidney transplant. Her 2010 book, “Love Brought Me Back,” chronicled the search for a donor. But she continued to perform well into 2015.
Ms. Cole and her father, Nat King Cole, in a photograph from about 1955. They sang together on a Christmas album. CreditMichael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Natalie Cole was born on Feb. 6, 1950, to Nat Cole and his wife, Maria Cole, who had sung with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Natalie grew up surrounded by music and celebrities, and she made her recording debut as a child, singing with her father on a Christmas album. But after Nat Cole’s death in 1965, she turned away from music. She majored in child psychology and graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1972.
But she was soon singing in clubs — although she resisted singing her father’s material.
“I had to do my own songs in my own way,” she told Rolling Stone in 1977.
She was noticed by producers based in Chicago, Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, who wrote much of her early material. She married Mr. Yancy in 1976, the first of three marriages.
Ms. Cole is survived by her son, Robert Yancy, and her two sisters, Timolin Cole and Casey Cole.
Capitol Records, which was also Nat Cole’s label, signed Natalie Cole and released, in 1975, her debut album, “Inseparable,” which drew comparisons to Aretha Franklin. She was named Best New Artist at the 1976 Grammy Awards, where “This Will Be” also won as “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.”
Ms. Cole’s third album, “Unpredictable” in 1977, was also a Top 10 pop album. She showed off her acrobatic live vocals on “Natalie Live” in 1978 and made a duet album, “We’re the Best of Friends,” with the R&B crooner Peabo Bryson in 1979. But her pop profile dwindled, in part because of her drug problems.
Ms. Cole holding one of the Grammy Awards she received in the 1990s.CreditMichelle V. Agins/The New York Times
Her career was revived in 1987, after rehab, with “Everlasting,” which included three Top 10 pop singles: “Jump Start,” the ballad “I Live for Your Love” and her version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.”
Yet it was with “Unforgettable...With Love” in 1991, leaping back to a previous generation’s songs, that Ms. Cole would establish her latter-day career. “Unforgettable” reminded both radio programmers and the record business that there was a large audience for music offering comfort far from the cutting edge.
“The shock of it all is that this record is getting airplay,” Ms. Cole said in an interview at the time. “It’s absolutely shocking to see it between Van Halen and Skid Row on the charts, totally out of its element. It should be encouraging to record companies and my contemporaries.”
Yet the Grammy sweep for “Unforgettable” in 1992 drew some criticism, particularly as the Song of the Year was four decades old. In 1993, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences changed the Song of the Year rules to make songs eligible only in the first year they were recorded or rose to prominence.
But Ms. Cole’s new direction continued to yield both hits and awards.
Her 1993 album, “Take a Look” and a 1994 Christmas album, “Holly & Ivy,” both sold half a million copies; “Stardust,” another collection of standards in 1996, eventually sold a million copies and brought her a Grammy for another duet with her father, “When I Fall in Love.” Her 2008 album, “Still Unforgettable,” was named Best Traditional Pop Album.
Ms. Cole also did some acting, appearing in television series including “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Ms. Cole grew further into her family’s heritage. In the late 1990s she performed with her uncle, the jazz singer Freddie Cole. And the virtual duets with her father continued through “Natalie Cole en Español.” His own “Cole Español” album was released in 1958.)
“He would step out on faith to do something musically,” she told “CBS This Morning” in 2013. “He would just take that risk, and that’s something that I’ve gotten from him, I guess. He was never trendy.”

A00589 - Howard Davis, Jr., Olympic Boxing Champion

Howard Davis Jr., left, fighting Carlos Gonzalez in 1977. Davis won the Val Barker Trophy as the top Olympic boxer in 1976. CreditLarry C. Morris/The New York Times
Howard Davis Jr., a boxer from Long Island who in 1976 won an Olympic gold medal and also received the Val Barker Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding Olympic fighter, over his teammates and fellow gold medalists Michael and Leon Spinks and Sugar Ray Leonard, died on Wednesday at his home in Plantation, Fla. He was 59.
The cause was lung cancer, according to an announcement on Facebook by the Howard Davis Jr. Foundation, which raises money to fight cancer.
Davis, who was a lightweight for most of his career and had a blistering left jab, was only 20 and was in mourning at the 1976 Games in Montreal. Days earlier, his mother, Catherine, had died of a heart attack at 37.
“I remembered her pointing her finger in my face and telling me, ‘You’d better win the gold medal,’ ” Davis told The New York Post in August. “I wasn’t going to be denied. There was no way I was going to lose.”
He soundly beat Simion Cutov of Romania for the gold medal in the lightweight division, becoming one of five Americans (along with Leonard, the Spinks brothers and Leo Randolph) who won gold that year.
“For pure ring mastery, the performance turned in by Davis against Cutov probably was the most polished of the night,” Steve Cady wrote in The New York Times. “It had skill, footwork, self-defense and, when he elected to strike, awesome power for a lightweight.”
Davis had more than 100 wins as an amateur. As a professional, he had a string of victories but lost a 1980 lightweight title bout against Jim Watt and, unlike the other 1976 gold medalists, never won a world title.
Davis said publicly that he was conflicted about the violence and injuries inherent in the sport.
“The last couple of years, there has been a rash of fatal injuries to boxers,” Davis told The New York Times in 1981. “You think about that every time you step into that ring. I see boxers get knocked out and lie there four or five minutes. It’s frightening. Even if you get paid a million and a half dollars, it’s not enough. It’s a very dangerous sport.”
After turning professional, he said he found little that he enjoyed about boxing, other than the money.
For Davis, the eldest of 10, boxing had always been a family affair. He was born on Feb. 14, 1956, in Glen Cove, N.Y., to Catherine and Howard Davis Sr., a social worker who ran a youth center and trained amateur and professional boxers, including his son.
According to a biography on the Davis foundation’s website, he was inspired to become a boxer after seeing the 1970 documentary “A.k.a. Cassius Clay” and went on to win Golden Gloves tournaments before he made it to the Olympics.
He retired from boxing in 1996 with a professional record of 36-6-1 with 14 knockouts, the foundation said.
Several years ago he began training mixed martial arts fighters, perhaps most notably Chuck Liddell. Davis and his wife, Karla, also started a mixed martial arts promotion company called Fight Time Promotions.
Besides his wife, survivors include a son, Dyah, also known as Ali; a daughter, Anika; and a brother, Kenny.