Back in 1958, legendary singer Nat King Cole released his first album that was completely in Spanish. 'Cole Espanol' was notable for a few reasons. For one, it was rare for a major American performer to release a record in Spanish and it became a top-20 album.
Even though the record was a success and Cole toured with it, he didn't speak any Spanish. None of that mattered, and two more albums in Spanish came after that.
Recently his daughter, Natalie Cole, followed in his footsteps by releasing her own spanish album: 'Cole En Espanol.' She joins Take Two to talk about why she decided to release a Spanish-language album.
On why she made the album in Spanish:
"I just thought I would do something different for a change. I didn't want to do another jazz record, I didn't want to do a pop record. I get bored very easily. I think I wanted to also broaden my horizons internationally. We have seen the Latin culture become huge, and I thought it would be fun to tap into it and see what happened."
On how she decided which songs to cover:
"Rudy Perez, who was my producer, they call him the Latin David Foster, has a great knowledge of this Latin music. He's from Cuba and he started off with probably 100 songs that he gave me. We somehow managed to whittle it down to 14. There's 12 on the record, but there's also two songs on iTunes. Not unlike the unforgettable approach with the American Songbook, Rudy and I took the approach of the Latin Songbook. That's how we came to end up zeroing in on these 12 songs."
On how much Spanish she had spoken before the project:
"Not very much. Muy poquito. But I did discover something else, which is that I can sing in Spanish a lot better than I can speak it. I just dove in and loved singing it. I love singing in Spanish; it's so beautiful, so pretty. But a lot of Spanish people tell me that when they first came to this country, if they weren't born here, they say they learn a lot of English by listening to songs and watching TV."
On how she makes an emotional connection with a song despite not understanding it:
"I made sure that Rudy gave me the summaries of what all these songs were. He translated them in English for me. Many of them are like poetry. I think when you approach a project, and it's foreign to you, you need to get as much information as possible. For me, the melodies have a lot to do with how I sing a song. The melodies are so wonderful on these tunes, and I just seem to go there naturally."
On why singing in spanish was important to her father
" I think my dad was just a fearless pioneer kind of guy. His manager is the one that persuaded him to do this first project. His manager was named Carlos Gastel, who was from Honduras. He did a Calypso Blues type of tune in his show, so some of his percussion players were at these different Latin American countries. It wasn't that foreign to him, so when Carlos suggested that he do a Spanish record, I think he jumped at the idea. Not to mention, it was the first time any iconic American singer had done anything like that, so he was received so well even though his accent wasn't the greatest. I think it was because he took the time to pay respect to the music of the Latin culture. People loved him for that."
On the iconic song 'Unforgettable:
"It's always been one of my favorite songs. I remember the original version would always make me giggle a little because there's a woman who does this operatic singing in the background of Dad's original version of this. For some reason, that always tickled me. I just love this song. I think it such a pretty song, it's a good song to do as a duet because it means 'come closer.' I just thought it was really nice. On top of it, we were able to find, as a fluke, footage on Dad singing this song in Spanish. So we're now putting it into the show. I'll be at the Hollywood Bowl next week, and it'll be the first time anyone has seen that footage, so it's very exciting."