On December 31, 2015, at the moment our year-end memorial was published, we lost Natalie Cole. We remember her with an early flip side, that she co-wrote with her musical director, who shares her memories exclusively with us at Goldmine.
By Warren Kurtz
Flip side: La Costa
A side: Our Love
Top 100 debut: January 14, 1978
Peak position: 10
In 1965, Capitol recording legend Nat “King” Cole passed away. A decade later, his daughter Natalie achieved her first hit single, also for the Capitol label. A tour followed, and Linda Williams, now known as Aziza Miller, told Goldmine of her musical audition, “I was hired to be Natalie’s piano player in 1975 after ‘This Will Be’ became her first hit. I was given quite an opportunity also to be her musical director. I had conducted in college, but this was new to me and exciting. We bonded, as we both had musical fathers. My father was a pianist.”
In 1977, “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” became Natalie Cole’s second Top 10 single and her first gold single. In 1978, she achieved her third Top 10 hit and second gold single with “Our Love” from the 1977 album “Thankful.” The flip side, also from “Thankful,” was “La Costa,” a song she co-wrote with Aziza Miller, who shared the story, “I had visited South America and came home to Queens to my parents’ place and sat at the piano. I heard everything but I didn’t hear lyrics. I scatted the melody where the lyrics would be. At my father’s suggestion, I played it for Natalie. She said, ‘Oh my God. Can I put words to it?’ and ‘La Costa’ was born. After the ‘Thankful’ album was out, my brother visited us in L.A. and had the ‘Our Love’ single in his hand. He said, ‘Look what’s on the flip side.’ It was ‘La Costa.’” Natalie Cole’s words captured tropical imagery, “Come to the magical mist, where the oceans kissed a thousand kisses or more, on the sandy shore.”
Natalie Cole reached the Top 10 two more times in the ‘80s with the Bruce Springsteen composition “Pink Cadillac” and “Miss You Like Crazy.” Her final gold single happened in 1991 with “Unforgettable,” a duet with her father, using a Nat “King” Cole recording from thirty years prior.
Aziza Miller reflected, “Natalie was an extraordinary talent. She had perfect pitch, held a high standard and was passionate. She had a funny side too, with quite a sense of humor. She was a down to earth, everyday person and very approachable. But with rehearsals and performances she was a no nonsense professional. Natalie and I were great friends. I went to her shows and she came to mine, where, six months before she passed, she made an appearance and did ‘La Costa’ with me.”
“This Journey of Love” is Aziza Miller’s new 6 song collection, dedicated to Natalie Cole. Tearfully she stated, “Everything about Natalie inspired me for my new CD. I heard her say, ‘It is time for you to do your music.’” “A Song for Silver” is a beautiful piano instrumental and the tender “A Song for My Friend” includes the lyric lines, “We were sisters in music. We were sisters in song.”
In Connecticut on July 14, Rob Yancy, Natalie Cole’s son and only child, played drums and percussion in Aziza Miller’s band at the Greater Hartford Jazz Festival, a month before his passing in August.
Photos courtesy of Aziza Miller
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”