Friday, January 22, 2016

Natalie Cole and Glenn Frey R.I.P.

Natalie Cole
Singer Natalie Cole died on December 31 2015. The cause was congestive heart failure.
Natalie Cole was born on February 6 1950 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents were legendary singer Nate King Cole and former Duke Ellington Orchestra vocalist Maria Hawkins Ellington. As would be expected, she grew up in a household filled with music. She made her album debut at only the age of six, singing on her father's LP The Christmas Album. She and her siblings made appearances on Nat King Cole's TV show that aired on NBC in 1956 and 1957. 

Natalie Cole met with success with her very first album, Inseparable. Released in 1975 the album hit no. 18 on the Billboard album chart and no. 1 on the Billboard R&B albums chart. Her first single, "This Will Be", also did very well. It hit no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 1 on the U.S. R&B singles chart. Her next few albums (Natalie, Unpredictable, Thankful, I Love You So, We're the Best of Friends, and Don't Look Back) all did fairly well. The first few ranked in both the top twenty of the Billboard albums chart and all ranked in the top twenty of the Billboard R&B albums chart. Her singles also did well, with "I've Got Love on My Mind" and "Our Love" both reaching the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. 

By the early Eighties Natalie Cole's career had declined, with her albums and singles not doing particularly well on the Billboard pop or R&B charts. Her albums Everlasting (released in 1987) and Good to Be Back (1989) did a bit better than her work from the early Eighties. Her single "Pink Cadillac", a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song, went to no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would be her album Unforgettable...With Love  (released in 1991) that saw her back on the top.  The albums featured songs that had been covered by her father, including the single "Unforgettable" in which she sang a duet with her father through the miracle of recording. The album hit no. 1 on the  Billboard albums chart and the single reached no. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Natalie Cole would not keep up the success of Unforgettable...With Love, although her albums performed for much of the Nineties and into the Naughts. Her last album was Natalie Cole en Español, released in 2013. 

Natalie Cole certainly inherited much of her father's talent. She had a wonderful voice and was quite versatile. She could perform a rock song like "Pink Cadillac" as well as she could a pop standard like "Unforgettable", and perform a pop standard like "Unforgettable" as well as an R&B song like "This Will Be". Ultimately it is then hard to pin Natalie Cole down to one genre. Throughout her career she performed everything from R&B to standard American pop to jazz to rock. Ultimately she could perform anything she chose to.

Glenn Frey
Glenn Frey, vocalist and guitarist for The Eagles, died on January 18 2016 at the age of 67. The cause was rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, and pneumonia.
Glenn Frey was born on November 6 1948 in Detroit, Michigan. When he was five years old he studied piano and later took up the guitar. As a teenager in the mid-Sixties he played with local bands such as The Subterraneans and The Four of Us. In late 1967 he formed the band Heavy Metal Kids (not to be confused with the later British band of the same name). He was 19 years old when his first professional exposure came about, providing background vocals and acoustic guitar on Bob Seger's song , "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" in 1968.

Glenn Frey moved to Los Angeles where he met J. D. Souther and formed the country rock duo Longbranch Pennywhistle with him. The duo remained together only until 1971. It was in 1970 that Glenn Frey worked as part of a backing band for Linda Rondstadt that also included Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon. The four of them performed on her album Linda Ronstadt, but only played live with her once. It was at Disneyland in July 1970. The four musicians then formed The Eagles. 

The Eagles proved successful right away. Their self-titled debut album went to no. 22 on the Billboard album chart, while their initial singles ("Take It Easy", "Witchy Woman", and "Peaceful Easy Feeling") all did well. Their sophomore album, Despeardo did not do nearly as well, peaking at only no. 41 on the Billboard chart. None of the singles from the album reached the top forty, although the album cut "Desperado" (which was curiously not released as a single) became one of the band's signature songs. 

The Eagles would recover, with their fourth album On the Border performing much better. The album included the single "One of These Nights" (which went to no. 1). It was with their next album One of These Nights, that The Eagles became one of the most successful rock bands of the Seventies. The album went to no. 1, while the single "One of These Nights" also hit no. 1. The late Seventies would see The Eagles with two more no. 1 albums (Hotel California and The Long Run), as well as such hit singles as "Hotel California" and "Heartache Tonight". 

By 1980 tension had developed in the band, with Glenn Frey and Don Felder constantly at odds. Glenn Frey quit The Eagles, while the remaining band members mixed their parts for the band's live album, Eagles Live. Glenn Frey then launched a solo career. He released three solo albums in the Eighties (No Fun Aloud, The Allnighter, and Soul Searchin'), all of which did moderately well on the Billboard albums chart. His singles "The Heat is On" and "You Belong to the City" both went to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. "The One You Love", "Sexy Girl", "Smuggler's Blues", and "True Love" all went to the top twenty.

In 1992 Glenn Frey released the solo album Strange Weather to little success. It failed to chart and none of the singles reached the top forty. The Eagles reunited without Don Felder to record the album Hell Freezes Over in 1994. The album reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Eagles reunited again in 2007 for the album Long Road to Eden. The album also hit no. 1 on the Billboard albums chart.

Glenn Frey recorded one last solo album, After Hours, which was released in 2012. The album only peaked at no. 116 on the Billboard albums chart.

I cannot say I am a Glenn Frey fan. I really did not care for any of his solo work. That having been said, he was a member of The Eagles, a band that produced several songs I like and a band that was very popular in my youth. Glenn Frey certainly contributed to the band's success. In fact, The Eagles would not have existed without Glenn Frey. As Don Henley said, "...Glenn was the one who started it all." He certainly contributed to some of my favourite Eagles songs: "Hotel California", "James Dean", "Desperado", "Heartache Tonight", and "Get Over It". I must then say that I am saddened by his death.

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