The daughter of Nat King Cole, Natalie eschewed a career in music and got a degree in child psychology from the University of Massachussetts in 1972. During her senior year, she decided to try singing along with her studies, and pursued both interests after graduating. When her first album, Inseparable, was released in 1975, it was a huge hit and music became her full time job.
Her famous father was an influence on Natalie's phrasing and vocal style, but she says her main influences were Jazz artists like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson.
Natalie's first record deal was with Capitol Records, which was where her dad recorded. She got the deal after recording material with the producers Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, who were members of the soul group The Independents. The pair wrote all the songs on her first album, including the hits "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" and "Inseparable."
She grew up in a wealthy, mostly white community in Los Angeles, and when she went to college, she joined the Black Panthers and was active in protesting the Vietnam War. "When I went to college I realised I was a black person too. It was a great eye-opener for me, which is why I got involved," said Cole.
Her success in the late '70s coincided with turmoil in her personal life and an addiction to heroin and crack cocaine. She went into rehab in 1983 and released her album Dangerous in 1985, which she claimed was the first one she recorded sober.
When Amy Winehouse performed at the Grammy Awards in 2008, Cole said, "I don't agree with the Grammys giving [Amy] those nods. I think it sends the wrong message." She added: "Her behavior was being glorified. They took advantage of a young girl who's very ill."
Cole took some criticism for the remarks, but her concerns were justified, as Winehouse died in 2011.
In 2008 she was diagnosed with hepatitis C, which she got from sharing needles in her days as an addict.