Dammit!! That one slipped by unnoticed. ..
There I was , recently ,making lists of the great and good ,the dead and the truly gone, in the past year, 2015 ,when I suddenly realised that I’ve been caught out while momentarily looking the other way .Right , bang on the the final day of the year, while everyone is busy rattling that last bag of celebrations for the coming new year,the singer , Natalie Cole slipped away almost unnoticed on the very last day of the year . There’s a certain sadness in dying at the apex of the year. It means that you can so easily be forgotten about while the rest of the world kicks up its heels and parties like it’s the end of the world.
I have to admit I wasn’t a great fan of the undoubtedly talented Miss Cole.I knew of her existence , of course. It was the same way I knew about Sean and Julian Lennon. They too bore the huge weight of being the issue of the enchanted loins of world-straddling iconic performers, such as their daddy, “BeatleJohn”. The fact is that without their father’s elevated profile, you would probably never have heard of them at all. Let’s face it , who could compete with a legacy like being the son or daughter of a Beatle or someone like that jazz maestro Nat “King” Cole. It would be like being Picasso’s son. You’d always be a non-starter throughout your life. It wouldn’t matter how good or talented you might be …there would always be that snide comparison to your old dad. David Bowie’s son is a very fine film -maker in his own right , but he’ll forever be ,simply,the late David Bowie’s son .
I never really listened to Natalie Cole’s music, just as I never really listened to much of younger Lennons’ output, but I listened to a lot of Nat King Cole’s albums at certain times in the past . He was a firm favourite of my Mother -In -Law and in that ,we shared a love of all kinds of music .Some of my my interests might have stretched her idea of what she might have thought was reasonable. I had to point out, for example , that Tom Waits was only really doing what Louis Armstrong , Howling Wolf or Jimmy Durante had started in a prior generation. He might have shredded it up somewhat as though gargling nails and gasoline, but it was essentially cut from the same kind of cloth. She wasn’t on the same page on that score…ther can be no doubt about that. Our minds met on Nat ,though. He had none of those awkward raw edges. It was all mellow, sweet mollasses and cream with Mr . Cole. I especially loved Nat Cole’s albums tracks when orchestrated by Nelson Riddle. Sinatra liked what Riddle could do with his punchy orchestrations for Nat and subsequently poached him for his own albums.Many can’t have Sinatra at all. They don’t like him for his arrogance or simply because of his presumed public personality and his supposedly outrageous connections to criminals and doubtful politicians, but I only judged him by how he could sing. That’s what it was really all about. Frank , like Nat and all the rest, I could summon up or dismiss with the flick of a switch. I didn’t have to live with any of them when all was said and done . I just wanted to listen to them . Besides the mellifluous creamy baritone voice of “Mona Lisa”, Nat Cole was also a real down -home jazzman on the piano keys and possibly the first real black superstar and the first to have his own television show. He was a very prominent presence for decades before his death in 1965.
Mother in Law ,”Molly” would share Sunday lunch with the family every week and old Nat would spin on the turntable.Saturday night might have been Burning Spear , Otis or Toots and the Maytals, but Sunday was a different thing entirely. Sunday lunch and Mr Cole were of a piece , like ice-cream and jelly or bacon and eggs…. Yes, Sunday lunches were like that for years. Molly had been a wonderful ballroom dancer too in her day and these Big Band sort of sounds of Ella, Billie, Frank and Nat ,obviously transported her back to her youth in the 1940’s and 1950’s.She’d have loved all that “strictly come dancing ” old glittery tosh too, had she lived longer. They always said that she was so light on her feet on the dancefloor. She was…. light as the proverbial twinkling fairy, until the osteoporosis took hold. That slowed her down a bit, but she kept a twinkle in her eye.. She always had some “Wee Job” for me to sort out at her home where she lived on her own , her husband Gerry, having died suddenly at the unlikely age of fifty six years a few short years after my wife and I had wed, So Molly lived on her own for some twenty years. If Molly needed something fixed , I was the first call. A shelf to put up?; a cupboard door to fix : a toilet that wouldn’t work? ; grass to cut? The running joke was that there was no such thing as a “Wee Job”, because every job had some hidden complication that usually needed every tool in the toolbox to complete.Subsequently every time the notion of a “Wee Job” was floated by Molly , it was met with loud guffaws of laughter from everyone in the room .The illusory “Wee Job” had gradually become a family tradition.
Everyone leaves this world in their own unique way.Just as David Bowie succumbed to throat cancer, Nat “King” Cole was to become the victim of aggressive lung cancer. His daughter suffered a variety of problems related to drugs , hepatitis, a kidney transplant and finally heart-failure. Our own Wee Molly made her exit in an unusually dramatic manner, much as John Lennon had, for someone who had lived an otherwise quiet and inoffensive life. Her death made it onto the national news channels and appeared on television and in the national press. I found myself fending off obtrusive telephone callers from television news outlets and foot-in-the -door reporters, as the focus of her death centred on my home. They wanted to see tears on the tea-time news.They weren’t about to get any from us.
A few days previously we had waved Molly off on her last sunshine holiday abroad ,with two of her other daughters and that was the last we ever saw of her alive. A drunken lawyer crashed his powerful Mercedes into her wheelchair on a pedestrian crossing and immediately her fragile bones were broken asunder in that awful ,errant second. We didn’t get her back home for another week.The lawyer eventually took his own life ,as if to further colour , complicate and complete her story.This was something I would never be able to fix.
My last “Wee Job” was to read a poem at her funeral service.
I still listen to many musicians and many different kinds of diverse music, but usually Nat Cole is only unveiled for special occasions, such as Christmas …and it is always with Molly in mind.