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Natalie Cole Gifted 6 Years of Life via Organ Donation from Late Fan's Family: 'It Was a Pretty Big Miracle'

Oyin Balogun
Apr 29, 2022
11:00 A.M.
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Natalie Cole made beautiful music in a career that lasted over five decades. Fans were so in love with everything she represented that when the star was diagnosed with a terminal illness, many offered to help. 

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Music great Natalie Cole worked hard to live outside the giant shadow of her dad Nat King Cole's success in her lifetime. Natalie did make a name for herself, but it took a toll on her life. 

Natalie Cole's 59-year-reign in the entertainment industry witnessed many milestones, starting with her debut album. The star rode high on the ladder of success until the time of her death. Here's her inspiring story:

Natalie Cole arrives at the 13th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 15, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada | Source: Getty Images

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INSIDE NATALIE'S CAREER 

Natalie had a significant headstart being the daughter of one of the most revered American singers, Nat King Cole, but that was also the bane of her career. She first started singing alongside King Cole at the age of six.

By 11, Natalie was already performing with her dad on TV. As time went on, she lived in her father's shadows and strived to create a niche for herself. Natalie once shared:  

"I had to be myself, singing my songs in my own way."

Natalie Cole at the Dorchester Hotel, London, UK on 6 August 1987 | Source: Getty Images

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The most rewarding parts of her career started in the 90s when Natalie recalled her album "Unforgettable" in 1991.

The body of work of the album earned her multiple Grammy awards for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Traditional Pop Performance of the Year. 

THE STRESSES OF SUCCESS

Natalie Cole with her ex-husband, record producer Marvin Yancy, in Chicago | Source: Getty Images

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The feelings of success are undoubtedly incomparable to the years of struggle to attain greatness, but it also comes with its side effects. As she kept gaining fame outside of her dad's legacy, Natalie faced social vices.

She became addicted to drug use which made her spend six months in the Hazelden rehab facility. After that, she started having problems in her career and her marriage.

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Natalie clashed with her record label, and her four-year marriage to Marvin Yancy also ended. Natalie's work schedule was getting the better of her and leading her further through the wiles of drug use. She once shared:  

"As my success escalated, so did the drug problem."

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The star married her producer Marvin in 1976, and they had a son "Robert Yancy." Theirs was a blissful union until it came crashing down in 1980. Marvin died in 1985. Once speaking about her first marriage, the singer started to ABC:

"Marriage to Marvin, and Robbie, was like a breath of pure, fresh, almost heavenly air. It was a man that I loved who loved me … we were just so close."

TWO MORE MARRIAGES

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Natalie tried her hand at a marriage two more times. Her second marriage was to drummer and record producer Rufus Andre Fischer. The pair walked down the aisle in 1989.

Fischer is known for his band Rufus which spawned great songs like "Ain't Nobody" alongside Chaka Khan. "Tell me Something Good," and "Sweet Thing." The group is also credited for developing Khan's career. 

Natalie Cole and husband Andre Fischer attending "Casey Kasem's Christmas Party" on December 21, 1991 at Casey Kasem's Home in Bel Air, California | Source: Getty Images

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Natalie and Fischer were married for six years before they finalized their divorce in 1995. The pair did not have children together. It would be another six years before Natalie gave marriage another trial.

The multiple award winner tied the knot for the third time with Bishop Kenneth Dupree in 2001. Dupree had been the senior pastor at a nondenominational Victory church in Nashville. 

Natalie Cole and husband Kenneth Dupree arrive at The 2003 Latin Recording Academy (LARAS) Person Of The Year honoring the accomplishments of Grammy and Latin Grammy Award winner Gilberto Gil on September 2, 2003 in Miami, Florida | Source: Getty Images

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Cole filed for divorce in 2004, within which she cited irreconcilable differences. Following her passing many years later, Dupree spoke about his ex-wife as he reminisced on their blissful years together. He told WJTV:

"We did a lot of things together. We traveled the world together, we lived together, we loved together, we laughed together, we cried together, and it was all tremendous."

THE GIFT OF LIFE NATALIE COLE RECEIVED FROM HER FAN

Natalie Cole attends Norwood Young's Annual White Christmas Party on December 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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Natalie's troubled years culminated in several health complications in the late 2000s. The star revealed on Larry King's CNN show that she had been diagnosed with kidney failure in 2009.

According to Natalie, this came after she had been treated for hepatitis C the previous year. The star shared that if she had not found a donor, she would have been on dialysis for the rest of her life.

Singer Natalie Cole poses for a portrait in 1991 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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Fans aware of the interview wasted no time writing to offer their kidneys to the beloved singer. Natalie got many offers but was fortunate enough to meet one that matched.

A generous family that came across her dire situation wasted no time consenting to donate a deceased loved one's kidney. Once in 2016, Tom Mone, the CEO of One Legacy, the country's most significant organ recovery agency, spoke about Natalie's donor.

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He explained that the donor's family discretely requested that the kidney be given to Natalie, and it saved her life. Mone explained about the heart-melting gesture:

"It was a pretty big miracle for her. And it gave her almost five or six years of life."

The star had been on a long waiting list until the miracle came along. She underwent surgery at the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. And after a few days, the singer reportedly responded well to treatment. 

NATALIE COLE'S DEATH AND WILL

Natalie Cole during An Unforgettable Evening Celebrating the VH1 Save The Music Foundation and "The World of Nat King Cole" at Private Residence in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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Following her successful kidney transplant, Natalie lived for another six years in good health. However, on the New year's eve of 2015, the singer's death was announced.

Natalie passed on at the age of 65 following a lung condition that led to a heart attack in her last hour. She was survived by her son, Robert, from her first marriage

Natalie Cole spends time with her son Robbie Yancy before a performance at Bally's Atlantic City, circa 1995 | Source: Getty Images

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At the time of her death, Natalie's fortune was worth $1.3 million, and she specifically willed it to several people. The beneficiaries listed mainly were her family and close friends. 

Although the amounts willed to each person were not made public, it was reported that her son received the bulk of her estate. Natalie willed parts of her properties and wealth to her twin siblings, Timolin and Casey Cole. She also named two of her pals, Tamra Englesteins and Benita Hill, as beneficiaries. 

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