On Monday (Feb. 15) the 8th Annual Grammy Awards honored the recently-deceased Natalie Cole with what seemed to many to be a tasteful final image: She wand her legendary father in a classic video performance, singing “Unforgettable” together.
In the aftermath, however, Cole’s family are voicing displeasure about the way Natalie was treated.
“Sadly a forgettable tribute to Natalie Cole,” says the singer’s sisters, Timolin and Casey Cole, while speaking with Entertainment Tonight. “Words cannot express the outrage and utter disappointment at the disrespectful tribute, or lack thereof, to a legendary artist such as our sister.”
As they see it, the facts are pretty straightforward: BB King, Lemmy Kilmister, Glenn Frey, David Bowie and Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White all received separate musical segments. Natalie Cole — nominated for 21 Grammys and a winner of nine — was relegated to the “In Memoriam” section.
Someone like Lemmy from Motorhead, meanwhile, never expressed any desire to be a part of the annual music ceremony, yet seemingly received a greater level of posthumous respect.
“It was shameless the way they minimized her legacy,” adds the sisters. “We will find solace in her legacy, as well as her endless fans around the world.”
As it turns out, Cole’s sisters weren’t the only viewers offended. Actress Holly Robinson Peete invokes Black History Month, saying the lack of recognition for a black singer was particularly disturbing.
“We lost so many greats,” she tweets. “But Natalie Cole 1st African American to win Best New Artist deserved a tribute.”
In defense of the move, Grammys telecast Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich tells the LA Times: “We were looking at what to do for Natalie … I went back and watched the footage when she did the duet on ‘Unforgettable’ with her father … she turns to the screen as he blows a kiss, and she blows a kiss back to him.”
To Ehrlich, that moment between Natalie and Nat King Cole — and subsequently, the viewer — was too perfect to pass up. “She turned to the audience, and the camera, and blew a kiss,” he says.
“At that moment, I thought, ‘What could we put together that would be better than that?’ And so we [used] that at the end of the In Memoriam tribute.”