Natalie Cole had been granted most-favored-nation status at the Grammy Awards since the daughter of Nat King Cole made her big career splash in 1975, when she collected Grammys for new artist and for R&B female vocal performance with the breakthrough single “This Will Be.”
Many Grammy telecast viewers had, not surprisingly, expected Cole, who collected nine Grammys during her lifetime, to be among the musicians who died in the last year to receive a posthumous live performance tribute at Monday’s 58th awards ceremony.
Some fans have subsequently questioned why she was folded into the video salute to more than a dozen other figures who died, rather than joining David Bowie, Glenn Frey, B.B. King and Motorhead front man Lemmy Kilmister in being saluted with a live performance.
“We were looking at what to do for Natalie,” Grammy telecast Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich told the Los Angeles Times on Friday during rehearsals for this year’s show.
“When I went back and watched the footage when she did the duet on ‘Unforgettable’ with her father, it came to that final line,” at which point Ehrlich quoted the song’s lyric that ends, “'It’s incredible, that someone so unforgettable, thinks that I am unforgettable too,' [and] she turns to the screen as he blows a kiss, and she blows a kiss back to him.
“Then she turned to the audience, and the camera, and blew a kiss,” Ehrlich said. “At that moment, I thought, ‘What could we put together that would be better than that?' And so we’re using that at the end of the In Memoriam tribute.”