David Foster is honouring Natalie Cole on the 30th anniversary of Unforgettable…With Love.
Foster worked with Cole on her album which included a digital duet with her father Nat “King” Cole.
The Canadian music producer looked back at memories of Cole, who died in 2015, and the legacy she left behind.
“She didn’t try and reinvent herself: she just went to the kind of music that she loved, that she’d always loved,” Foster told People. “Some people learned how to do this kind of music, and a few people live this kind of music.”
“She obviously had a great pop career,” he added.
Nat “King” Cole died when his daughter was only 15 leaving behind a top charting career. Cole later started her own career in 1970 after avoiding the music industry.
“There might have been a little bit of, ‘The pop thing is getting a little hard for me, so maybe I’ll try this,’ but I think it was honestly just a true love of this music that brought her to this point at that time,” Foster said of Cole’s ambition to record Unforgettable…With Love.
“I didn’t know the depth of how well she could do the material until we started recording,” he added. “From a very young age, Natalie was around that kind of music her whole life, so even though, to her credit, she could be such a great pop singer, what she really lived and breathed was her father’s music, because that’s what she was around all the time. It was really a natural progression.”
But it was the father/daughter duet that took Foster by surprise.
“She said, ‘By the way, I want to do ‘Unforgettable’ as a duet with my father,'” Foster recalled. “I didn’t pick it because it was going to be a duet – I picked it because I love the song, which helped me be the right producer for it. When she told me that it was like, ‘How’s that going to work?'”
He also remembered the first time the song was played for Natalie and her mom Maria.
“That moment when they were both listening, it was great,” he said. “Their eyes were closed. The moment when Nat answered Natalie, they both started crying. It was as though he was right over her shoulders.”
The album would go on to win the 1992 Grammy for Album of the Year and Best Engineered – Non-Classical, with their duet bringing in another four Grammys.
But despite their professional working relationship, Foster best remembers Natalie as a friend.
“The biggest thing she was for me was honest: always busting my balls about if I was doing something wrong, if I was dating the wrong woman, getting married when I shouldn’t be,” Foster said. “She was always busting me on that kind of stuff, and I was doing that to her, too… We had a real sort of brother/sister relationship. I can honestly say that she was a really good friend to me, and you can’t say that about everybody you work with.”