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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Natalie Cole

Aired November 08, 2010 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST (voice over): Tonight, Natalie Cole exclusive. The singer's life was saved with a kidney transplant. And now for the first time, she's speaking publicly about it, right here.

NATALIE COLE, SINGER: When they called to say that there was a kidney for me, the lady said something about the family has requested that it goes to Natalie Cole.

KING: With the donor's family, an incredible story of faith and hope and friendship. Natalie Cole next on LARRY KING LIVE.


NATALIE COLE, SINGING: And forever more-

NAT KING COLE, SINGING: And forever more-

NATALIE COLE: That's how you'll stay-

NAT COLE: That's how you'll stay--


KING: Good evening. Natalie Cole is the Grammy-winning singer, and in March of 2009, revealed on this program that she needed a new kidney. And got a transport in May of 2009. She shares that incredible story in a terrific new book, "Love Brought Me Back: A Journey of Loss and Gain." Have it right here, and there you see its cover.

It's a great pleasure to welcome her back to LARRY KING LIVE, the first interview together with Natalie and the donor family, by the way, they're around, who gave her the kidney.

It's been more than a year. How's the health?

COLE: Really good. Really good.

KING: Are you like normal-normal?

COLE: Yeah, it's amazing.

KING: So if I tested your kidneys, you're OK?

COLE: Oh, yeah, probably better than yours. (LAUGHTER)

KING: OK. You came on this show, as we said, in March of last year, revealed you need a new kidney. Let's take a look at what you said then.


KING: If you don't get a kidney, you have dialysis the rest of your life?

COLE: If you don't have dialysis, absolutely, you will die. Dialysis is actually keeping me alive.

KING: Are you on a list somewhere?

COLE: I am. I'm on a very long list, which is why we are looking to donors, living donors. You can get kidney also from cadavers, which is not abnormal.


KING: How sick were you, Natalie?

COLE: I was pretty bad. When I first was diagnosed with kidney failure, my function -- the function of my kidney was less than 8 percent. So I was on my way out of here, and I really -- what I felt was a very, very great difficulty to breathe.

KING: Breathing?

COLE: Yeah.

KING: Kidneys are not lungs?

COLE: No, but it wasn't flushing out -- this is why the organ, the kidney is so important in our body, because it flushes out toxins. It cleans our -- it cleanses us, period. Without that particular organ, we couldn't make it. So my body was, you know, filled up, I guess, a lot of, you know, bacteria and --

KING: How do you know you had it?

COLE: Well, because of this breathing situation --

KING: You had Hepatitis C, right?

COLE: Right.

KING: Was that from a transfusion?

COLE: No, that was from drug use. The Hep C came from drug use 25 years before.

KING: Wow.

COLE: Which lets you know that the virus of Hep C can live in your body for a long time.

KING: And how did Hep C lead to this?

COLE: I already had high blood pressure. I have hypertension. And I think the chemo was just too much for my kidneys. And they went into failure. And that was September 12th of 2008. And the doctor rushed me right to the hospital. As soon as he took X-rays, he said, you've got to go to the hospital right now. And I was on dialysis within three days, three to four days.

KING: We hear so much about dialysis and I have friends and family that have had it. Can you describe it? It's boring as hell, isn't it? I mean, three times a week, right?

COLE: Yeah, it's three times a week, three and a half hours a day. Some people do even more.

KING: Do you just sit and they inject you?

COLE: There are different ways you can get it. You can get it through your stomach and sleep at night. I chose not to do that option. I didn't want to have a machine in my house that I had to look at every day. I chose to come to a facility and then I could leave that facility.

You know, it doesn't hurt.

KING: They go in intravenously, right?

COLE: Yes, it's a catheter, that's either -- I had a catheter which was here. There are others that once you're on longer, they put something in your arm, or sometimes in your leg, and that's where the machine is hooked up to.

KING: And what are they putting in?

COLE: They're cleansing your blood. They are literally cleansing your blood.

KING: And that is the blood's going through and being cleansed?

COLE: Yes.

KING: Do you feel anything?

COLE: No, you really don't. And you're right, it is kind of boring.

KING: Sit there, while you read a book?

COLE: Sit there. Do your work, make phone calls, watch TV, sleep, you can eat.

KING: Did you go out and work at the time?

COLE: Absolutely. KING: You performed while doing it?

COLE: Absolutely. One of the things that I was really surprised to discover is that there are so many dialysis facilities around the world. I was in Istanbul, I was in Manila.

KING: All have them?

COLE: Yeah.

KING: So kidney is a worldwide problem?

COLE: Yes, it is. There are 14 facilities in Istanbul alone.

KING: At the time you were here, though, you said you weren't in a great rush. Why not?

COLE: Well, I guess because I kind of went -- I kind of reached a rhythm, Larry. I kind of reached a point in my health -- I have to say, I was really doing better than most of the patients that I saw when I would go to dialysis three times a week. There were people in there that just, they looked really gravely ill. Their skin color was different -- mine had changed as well, it was a little darker, it wasn't glowing, you know. But there were some people that were really sick, because there's diabetes, there's heart problems, there's old age; and so I just felt like my health was fairly stable compared to some of the other people that I had seen.

KING: Were you scared?

COLE: Sometimes.

KING: You said you had trouble breathing, how could you sing?

COLE: You know, it's funny, because that same day that I was diagnosed with the kidney failure, I had already done "The View," because I was in New York doing PR for my then CD, "Still Unforgettable." and I had sang on "The View" and it was fine. It was just like, but as soon as I was through, it was really interesting.

KING: So maybe singing above it.

COLE: Yeah.

KING: You are quoted as saying, you wrote that you're still amazed that you're still alive. Were you then pessimistic about getting a kidney?

COLE: You know, I just had so many things happen in my life and I just couldn't believe that this was really happening. You know, and I didn't know how close I was to dying. But the way that I got this kidney --

KING: We're going to get to that. And you write about that. What made you write the book?

COLE: Because of the way that I got this kidney.

KING: We'll get to that in the next segment. It was an amazing --

COLE: It really is amazing.

KING: An amazing story. Tell me about your sister, Cookie. She was your rock during all this.

COLE: Yeah, she was my cheerleader.

KING: She got sick, right?

COLE: She did. And she hid it very well, for a while. April or March of that same year, 2008, Cookie had put together a kind of an art gallery thing with a CD that she had been working on of our dad's. And she seemed to be a little tired that evening. And she wasn't as bustling around and being hostess with the mostest like she usually was. And then the following month, I was supposed to go to Korea, and that trip was canceled. And when I got back -- I was in Seattle to find out it was cancer -- and when I got back, I found out that she was very sick and they had taken her to the hospital.

KING: What did she have?

COLE: She had basically collapsed. And we ended up going to the doctor with her about a week later.

KING: And what happened?

COLE: And the doctor said, she needs chemo, like, yesterday. By then, she knew. She knew.

KING: Still ahead, we'll meet the family of Natalie's kidney donor. How she got that kidney. We'll be back with the unforgettable Miss Cole. The book is "Love Brought Me Back." Don't go away.


KING: Amazing part of this story is, the night you got the call about a kidney, your sister was dying.

COLE: I was with her. I was in the hospital with her --

KING: When she died?

COLE: Not when she died. She had gone into a coma, again. She -- once we went to the doctor, she -- you know, he said, the chemo thing. And I knew she wasn't going to do that, so she went back home. I then had to fly off to Atlanta. My goddaughter was having a graduation. I went there. They called me the next day and said, Cookie has collapsed, we've got to take her back to the hospital.

KING: What'd she have cancer of?

COLE: Lung cancer. But it also had spread to pancreas, and other areas.

KING: Like your dad?

COLE: Yeah.

KING: Did she smoke, too?

COLE: Yeah, yeah.

KING: Now the amazing thing is your appearance on this show. That was where you said you need a kidney.

COLE: That's right.

KING: And we asked people to --

COLE: And they wrote in and I received all these amazing e- mails, because of your show. That's right. When was it that I was on your show?

KING: It was March of 2009.

COLE: OK, so march of -- May 19th of 2009 is when I got the kidney.

KING: And how did it happen?

COLE: Well, you'll also hear from --

KING: We're going to meet the people.

COLE: --lovely, Patty.

KING: Someone was watching the show?

COLE: They were watching the show. As a matter of fact, the young woman, Jessica, which I just found out yesterday, by talking with Aunt Esther, she had been watching the show as well. And Esther has been my nurse, serendipitously, this woman had been my nurse, on a day I had a procedure, an out patient procedure at Cedars --

KING: Not connected with the kidney?

COLE: Yes, it was. Yes, because I had to have catheter changed, and I to do dialysis the same day.

KING: So, she is watching and she sees this.

COLE: Esther was my nurse. And we just got along so well. We had a great time, we had to spend several hours there. And several weeks later, she's watching LARRY KING. She's watching you, with Jessica, her niece. And they said, oh, we wish that we could do something for that lady. I remember her, she was so nice. And a few weeks after that, her niece passed in a very unlikely situation. And they'll tell you.

KING: How old was Jessica?

COLE: Jessica was 30.

KING: And did they -- they had tested her for a match?

COLE: Jessica was an organ donor, God Bless her. She now is living through several other people, besides myself.

KING: Do they have to test to see if the kidney matched?

COLE: Yes, it was a perfect match. Perfect. But because Esther had -- when this happened, when her niece ended up having this situation where she went into a coma, she was brain dead. And they, you know, ended up having to talk to the family about giving away her organs, and Esther --

KING: So the niece said, watching you, I'd like to help her?

COLE: Yeah, you know, just, wish we could help her.

KING: And how soon after that did the niece die?

COLE: That I don't know. You can ask her.

KING: We'll find out.

Wait a minute, so here's a woman watching with her niece, who's only 30.

COLE: Right.

KING: The niece sees you say, you need a kidney. The niece says, I would like to help. The niece dies, and you get that kidney.

COLE: Yep.

KING: What are the odds?

About a million to one.

KING: When they told you they had a kidney, they had pretested her already?

COLE: Yeah, they already said, we think it's a match. This is on the phone.

KING: And you're with Cookie, who is dying?

COLE: I'm with Cookie in another hospital. And the lady first called from the transplant center at Cedars, and said, we think we have a match, is there any way you can get here to the hospital? I said, this is not a good time, I'm sitting here with my sister who is dying, I'll have to get back to you.

KING: You-you-I'll have to get back to you? COLE: Hung up the phone. I said, I can't talk to you right now. And they called again a couple hours later. And by then, I had to make a decision, you know. They said, we really need you to come to the hospital by like 6:00, and it was like 4:00.

And I was just so -- it's just one of those times when everything is just happening almost like either slow motion, you know? And you just don't really know what's going on, but you know that you need some kind of direction. And I ended up calling someone who's been working with me for many, many years, this gentleman who I depend on, he's like a brother to me, he's actually my business manager. And I called him at 4:00 o'clock in the morning. And I said, you'll never guess what's going on.

KING: Cookie passed soon after that?

COLE: Cookie passed. They did not tell me when she passed. When I left her, she was still holding on.

KING: We'll be back with more. The book is "Love Brought Me Back." more with Natalie Cole after this.


KING: In a little while, we'll be meeting two of the people definitely involved in all of this, this incredible story.

Now, you said after your sister's death, that there's a part of me missing now. I don't expect I'll ever totally get over it.

COLE: Mm-hmm.

KING: The timing, though. I know you're a woman of faith. Do you think your sister knows?

COLE: I think, that I had a dream about my sister not long after she was gone. And as my brother passed away many years earlier, and I had dreamt about him as well, after he had gone. And I do think that she knows. She was in a garden, a beautiful garden. And, you know, this is something -- sisters-- our sisters are very, very special to us.

KING: Your uncle was a great talent.

COLE: Of course. All of them. Eddy, Freddy, Ike.

KING: I saw Freddy perform. I saw Ike perform.

COLE: Absolutely.

KING: Your father was only, what, 49?

COLE: Yeah, yeah. I don't think he was even that old. He was born 1919, he passed in 1965. So he wasn't even 49. More like 46 or 47.

KING: So, now you leave, what hospital was Cookie in?

COLE: She was in Tarzana, in the Valley.

KING: And you had to go to Cedars?

COLE: I went to Cedars.

KING: It is not close.

COLE: No. Went home, met my cousin, she met me at the house. And my friend Tammy met me at the house, and it was just wild. It was wild. And we went, got to the hospital, and then we ended up, of course, sitting there for hours and hours and hours. You know, how that is.

KING: They didn't pay attention to you?

COLE: Oh, no, I'm just saying that they prepped me, and all that, but the actual surgery didn't happen until that afternoon. And my sister passed actually around 8:00 something that morning. But they did not tell me, and my doctor expressly said to my family, don't tell her. I want her to go into this surgery upbeat and still thinking that Cookie is doing OK.

KING: So your kidney was from a dead person?

COLE: Yeah.

KING: What was your -- you wake up, what does it feel like? Is there any different feeling?

COLE: You know, it's so funny. My mom -- when I came out of surgery, she looked at me and she said, you look like you've had a facelift. I was -- my skin -- when you have taken a dead organ that's pretty much dead, and put in a fresh new one, your body just goes, wow! And everything, you know, your skin, your whole radiance. I mean, I was glowing. I couldn't see it, but everybody could see it. Because, you know, everyone went from the hospital where Cookie was to the hospital where I was. There were about 25 people migrating. And they all saw that in me. And my mom said, you look like you -- what did they do to you in there, because I looked so refreshed.

KING: Sid your mom know that Cookie had died?

COLE: Oh, yeah.

KING: When did they tell you?

COLE: They didn't tell me until the 20th of May. I went into surgery around 3:00 on 19th, and they didn't tell me until around 9:00 o'clock the next morning.

KING: I guess, you sort of half expected, right?

COLE: You know-

KING: Right, no?

COLE: No. I just-you know, kind of just wanted to believe that she was going to hold on.

KING: How old was she?

COLE: She was 64.

KING: Too young.

COLE: Yeah.

KING: So you that bounce back, you look great, do you also feel great?

COLE: I feel terrific.

KING: So you get a new kidney, it's like a new life.

COLE: Yeah.

KING: No more dialysis?

COLE: No. It is just, I can do everything that anybody else can do. I can eat everything I want, except for sushi. That's the first thing they told me when I came out of surgery.

KING: No sushi, why?

COLE: Something about the mercury and parasites for the kidney.

KING: Oysters? Are you going to read something from the book?

COLE: Yes.

KING: OK, before we go to break?


KING: This is from "Love Brought Me Back."

COLE: I was missing life. The long, hot summer was getting longer by the day. I was moping around in my depression, doing nothing, getting nowhere. This is since Cookie has passed. Then the card arrived. It was a simple card, but it seemed surrounded by light. Its light broke through any darkness. The card gave me something I never had before, the name of the woman who gave me her kidney, Jessica; the name of her sister writing the note, Patty. Two sisters, just like me and Cookie.

The note was short and very sweet. The note was filled with gratitude, gratitude for the fact that her sister could be of service. The note was filled with curiosity. Curiosity about how I was doing. The note was filled with humility. If I were unable to meet her family, Patricia would understand. That note touched my heart. I didn't think twice. I went to my desk and immediately responded. KING: She's starting over again, Natalie Cole, and we'll meet Natalie's donor family as we continue this amazing story next.


KING: We've had lots of amazing editions of LARRY KING LIVE. This gets added to the list. We're back with the great Natalie Cole. Joining us are Patricia Argueta, her sister, Jessica, donated her kidney to Natalie.

Jessica was 32 years old, died from complications related to her pregnancy, the child lived. Esther Seeber is Jessica's aunt, and was one of Natalie's dialysis nurses. And she helped convince the family to donate her niece's organs. And requested that her kidney go to Natalie. Were you watching that night, Esther?


KING: When Natalie was on this show?

SEEBER: On the show, this was back in March. I watch your show every day.

KING: That's smart of you.


KING: So you saw Natalie talk about this?

SEEBER: Yes, and my niece was next to me. And when the show finished, you know, we said, we wish we could help her. And my niece said, me too. She seems like a nice lady.

KING: That was the niece that died, right?

SEEBER: Yes, Jessica.

KING: And Patty, Jessica was your sister?


KING: What did you make of all this when this all happened? What did you make of all this?

ARGUETA: Um, well --

KING: I mean, your sister --

ARGUETA: My baby sister, 10 years --

KING: -- Kept alive another person?

ARGUETA: Yes, was amazing. I mean, I'm happy that she lives through so many people. That I can feel a connection when Natalie -- it brings us - of such a tragedy loss, it's amazing that she still lives on.

KING: And she knew she was going to -- she wanted to donate a kidney, right?

SEEBER: Yes, most of our family are donors. You know, on your license, you can on there.

KING: Yes, you can write on there.

SEEBER: And they give you the little pink dot to put on the license. So we believe in once you move on to the next life, that whatever is for us to be giving inside, organs, to help other human beings.

KING: Were other organs given to others, too?

ARGUETA: All her organs were donated.


KING: So people are walking around living --

COLE: Yes, through Jessica.

KING: Through your niece and your sister?

SEEBER: Right.

KING: You said you saw Natalie on this program back in 2009 when she announced she needed a kidney transplant. We'll take another look at a clip from that interview. Watch.


KING: What specifically is wrong with your kidneys right now? Is it both kidneys?

COLE: Yes. It's renal failure. Other than the fact that I was on chemotherapy earlier last year, there's nothing wrong with my kidneys.

KING: If you don't get a new -- you need one, right?

COLE: Right.

KING: If you don't get a new kidney, what happens?

COLE: I'll be fine. I'll be fine.

KING: You will be fine?

COLE: I will be fine.


KING: Just on dialysis the rest of your life, right? COLE: Right.

KING: And what kind of life?

COLE: Yeah. It's tough. It is a tough life, but, you know, I talk to people who were on it longer than I was and they managed. They really did.

KING: Why did you write to her, Patty?

ARGUETA: Actually, I wrote to all the donors -- or all the recipients.

KING: How many were there?

ARGUETA: Well, the heart, the two kidneys, the liver. I wrote to every one of them, because I'm really interested in meeting them.

KING: Did you meet them?

ARGUETA: No. Natalie's the only one --

KING: None responded?

ARGUETA: None responded.

KING: That's weird.

COLE: Yeah, and the facility that is responsible for getting organs, you know, donated to recipients, they say that this is not uncommon, that recipients often do not want to really meet the donor family.

KING: Because do you think they feel queasy?

SEEBER: Not necessarily. Sometimes it takes years before they want to really meet the donor. The recipient takes time, and it's up to the individual. Unlike Natalie, she wanted to meet us right away. She was (INAUDIBLE) where was this kidney coming from.

KING: You were curious, right? I would imagine anybody --

COLE: The day that they -- when they called to say that there was a kidney for me, the lady said something about the family has requested that it goes to Natalie Cole. And I'm like, how do they know me? You know? And as a matter of fact, the hospital was a little nervous because they thought that maybe I had bribed this family to give me --

KING: People buy kidneys.

COLE: Yes, sir, they certainly do.

KING: Was Jessica a fan of Natalie's? We'll find out after the break.


KING: We're back with Patty Argueta and Ester Seeber, the sister and aunt, respectively, of the late Jessica, who provided the kidney for Natalie Cole. It's all described in Natalie's new book, "Love Brought Me Back." You were watching with Jessica, Esther, Was Jessica a fan of Natalie Cole's?

SEEBER: Yes, she was, especially because my mother had passed on of lung cancer a few years, in 2004. And we used to -- she was a fan of Natalie's father.

KING: Who wasn't?

SEEBER: Yeah, that's true. And then she liked the duet "Unforgettable," to the point that the CD doesn't exist anymore, because we've run it over and over. And sometimes she would get up and put it on, and I think I scrape it, because it keeps running and running. But it really is very soothing.

When you go through chemo, it's very, very trying.

KING: Are you still a nurse?

SEEBER: No, I retire. So I haven't been a nurse for a while.

KING: Tell me what the meeting was like? Did you meet them together?

COLE: Yes.

KING: Where did it occur, Natalie, and what happened?

COLE: It occurred at the office of One Legacy, which is the organization that handles organ transplants.

KING: Who was there first?

COLE: We were there first, actually. I was there with my girlfriend, Tammy, and my manager, Barbara. I can't even remember who was there.

KING: Were you nervous?

COLE: Was Pam there?

KING: No, were you nervous?

COLE: Was I nervous? Yes, I was stunned. I just thought that the whole thing was just -- it was very overwhelming. It was a very emotional time, especially because Patty and I already had so much in common. We had both lost our sisters, you know, so I knew how she felt already.

KING: That's weird. You lose a sister, she loses a sister, her loss is your kidney. This is a bad novel.

COLE: It is just -- it is. It's a really, really a very strange but wonderful catastrophe.

KING: Yeah.

COLE: You know?

KING: What was your first emotion, Patty?

ARGUETA: Well, at first, I was scared, not because Natalie's a famous star, but just because I wanted to know if I was going to feel the connection with my sister. And immediately I felt that.

KING: You did?

COLE: Oh, yes, immediately. As soon as I hugged her, I felt my sister living in her. It was so emotional.

KING: Do you remember, Esther, as a nurse in the hospital ?

COLE: Oh, yes, I do.

KING: Who would not remember Esther?

COLE: And -- and my girlfriend, Tammy, they really got along very well. And she remembered Esther when we walked into the room, even more than I did. She said, I remember you. You were the nurse that day! So it was just like, oh, wow. You just never know how you're going to impress people. I mean, this woman just -- she just liked me. I mean, I could have been a different kind of person, you know?

KING: Where's Jessica's baby?

ARGUETA: Jessica's baby is with the father, Julio.

KING: Was it a boy or a girl?

ARGUETA: It was a boy, a beautiful baby boy.

COLE: Louis? Is it Louis. Lucas?


KING: What a story. And she died in childbirth? Or complications.

ARGUETA: Yeah complications of childbirth, May 15th. She had preclampsia. And she was rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital where they took her did not have a neurosurgeon. So she bled.

KING: Well, this is an incredible story. Esther, what can we say? Keep watching this show. You never know --

SEEBER: Yeah, but you're almost over with this show.

KING: We'll be around. We're not leaving. Patty, what can we say? Natalie is still making great music. In fact, one of the tunes is "Good to Be Back." Appropriate? We'll talk to her about her future next.





KING: One of the great recordings of all time. Your idea?

COLE: Sort of, yeah. We were doing it, actually, in Las Vegas, back in the '80s, very crudely, with a reel to reel backstage. And dad's voice would sing "Unforgettable." And the orchestra on stage would play. Then they'd mute the button and I'd sing. It was so tacky. But the audience loved it.

KING: By the way, I just learned there's a Christmas album. It will be out soon, featuring Natalie Cole and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. How'd that come about?

COLE: Oh, my goodness. They --

KING: Did you record it in Utah?

COLE: They invited me to come up to Salt Lake City and it was an amazing four or five days. It really, really was.

KING: All Christmas songs?

COLE: All Christmas songs. It was great.

KING: What was it like to sing with them?

COLE: Well, first of all, just the way that they have their whole -- you know, their whole routine and their whole -- they're very -- not -- I wouldn't say -- well, yes, I would say that they're very regimented. They're very disciplined. But they also have an eye for beauty. I mean, this building that we performed in --

KING: I've been there.

COLE: Then you know, I mean, it was just gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

KING: We did a Christmas eve show from there.

COLE: Really? It was so much fun. It was really -- the choir was so excited to see me, and the orchestra down below. And everybody was just really so accommodating and friendly and lovely. We had a wonderful time.

KING: So that will be out soon, Natalie Cole and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for Christmas. What's the title of the album? COLE: I don't know. Natalie Cole and Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

KING: Just a few months after the operation, you returned to performing at the Hollywood Bowl. What was that like?

COLE: I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was so excited. I was so happy. I was so -- I was floating, you know. I was just -- there was no guarantee that that was supposed to happen. So I knew it was a miracle moment. And the night was magic. It was just magic. It really was.

KING: Was there any change after the kidney in the way you sang?

COLE: You know, I kind of -- I don't know if it's just me, but I kind of felt like my voice got stronger. It felt stronger to me.

KING: Well, you were stronger, right?

COLE: I was a pretty, you know, fairly strong, you know. But I noticed when I was on dialysis and I was singing, I would get tired very, very quickly.

KING: Explain the title, "Love Brought Me Back."

COLE: Well, I think that the love of my family and the people around me really helped to bring me out of a really sad, dark place after Cookie passed. I really didn't know how I was going to move forward. I really didn't.

KING: As the subtitle says, "A Journey of Loss and Gain." I mean, mixed emotions.

COLE: Yeah, it is.

KING: Someone dies and you get a new kidney from someone else's sister.

COLE: It's what you call bittersweet. It's almost the same kind of feeling that I get, even still when I look at the screen when I'm singing "Unforgettable" and we have a video of dad, you know, in a live performance. And it's still bittersweet to, you know, be singing with him, but wishing he was here.

KING: We'll be back with more. The book is, "Love Brought Me Back." More with Natalie Cole after this.



KING: We're back with Natalie Cole. The book is "Love Brought Me Back, A Journey of Loss and Gain." We've met the two people who made it all possible for her.

We're going to take another look at Natalie singing with her father. This is one of my favorite songs. This is from the album "Still Unforgettable," but the song is "Walking My Baby Back Home."




KING: Is it hard to sing with a recording?

COLE: Once you -- no.

KING: You're on a duets album with Sinatra too, aren't you?

COLE: Right. you know, my thing is that I get familiar with the phrasing of how they phrase and then I'm good to go.

KING: You know, (INAUDIBLE) talk about your dad. What musically -- musically made him special?

COLE: I would say his selection.

KING: No one had a voice like that?

COLE: No. No one had a voice. His selection of music was pristine. I mean, when I think of -- and the way that they were arranged, those song -- you know, between Nelson Reel (ph) and Dave Cavanaugh (ph) and Billy Maze (ph), forget it. Him and Frank, really, were very much neck-in-neck with the selection of music. And as vocalists, they -- you always felt they were singing to you, not at you.

KING: Remember when your father was the trio behind Bing Crosby on the Craft Music Hall, the King Cole Trio. Your father was a great piano player.

COLE: Yes, he was, which a lot of people didn't know because once he got big, he wasn't playing piano as much. But the real, true fans of Nat Cole know.

KING: He was the first black to host his own television show.

COLE: That's correct.

KING: And a lot of states in the south didn't show it. Isn't that unbelievable?

COLE: Yes, it really is. It really is. I think he made a quote -- my mom always said, your dad would say Madison Avenue was afraid of the dark.

KING: What was it like the first time you did the "Unforgettable" thing?

COLE: It was pretty weird.

KING: In a recording studio? COLE: Yes. It was pretty strange. No one really knew what to expect. And I think we all got chills. David Foster was the producer of that particular song. And I know we worked very hard. Al Schmidt was the engineer. And technologically, we had never done anything like that. Nothing had been attempted like that, to lift dad's voice, literally, off of that track and put it on a brand new one, and then line it up, match it up, get the phrasing right.

I remember listening -- everyone listening at the end, and we were just enthralled. It was really wonderful.

KING: Our remaining moments with the great Natalie Cole when we come back.


KING: Natalie Cole back on the scene. Are you now doing concerts? Are you back full swing?

COLE: Business as usual. There is no rest for the weary. I just came off of three weeks with David Foster and Friends, which was really fun. We went to Asia and --

KING: He's amazing.

COLE: Yes, it was really great. I've known David forever. We did really good. We had a great time. And it was a nice combination of people. And then I'll be at Disney Hall in December, which will be my first time. I'm very excited.

KING: That's a great place. Do you do Vegas? Do you do Atlantic City?

COLE: I haven't done Vegas in ages, although David's PBS special was taped in Vegas. And that will be out in March. So that was nice. I think it was at the -- not the Wynn, but the other beautiful hotel. I don't remember the name of it now.

KING: You used to work Vegas a lot?

COLE: All the time. I remember the days when nobody wanted to go. Everyone thought it was like, you know, a very bad thing, you know, to play Vegas. And now everybody wants to play Vegas.

KING: When you were a kid, Ella Fitzgerald was Auntie Ella. Frank Sinatra was Uncle Frank. What was life like for you as a kid?

COLE: You know, when you're young, you don't know. You have no clue. You're just so busy having a good time. And everybody is spoiling you and taking care of you and taking you places. And at the same time, if you're a smart kid, you're observing and watching. And that's what I did.

KING: When you went to school, all the kids had to know your father, right? COLE: But I was also in a school at some point, in pre-high school, where I was also with celebrity kids. I went to school with Walt Disney's grandchildren, Dick Van Dyke's son, the Geddy's (ph). I was in very good company.

KING: Was that good to be with kids of famous -- good and bad?

COLE: Good and bad. It's a strange -- I was raised differently. I think that they -- to a degree, they were just a little more spoiled, you know, than I was. My parents, you know, they raised us pretty strict. And I think being a black family during that time, you just didn't have certain luxuries that you could just get wild and act like everybody else.

KING: How old were you when dad died?

COLE: I just turned 15.

KING: Where were you?

COLE: I was in school. I was at Northfield school in biology class. I'll never forget it.

KING: They came to get you?

COLE: Yeah. Yeah. I knew that he was sick. But again, I didn't -- you just -- that part of -- is he going to leave here? No. That was just not -- as a matter of fact, several days after his surgery -- his lung surgery, they said that the surgery was successful. So I was quite stunned when they said he didn't make it.

KING: He couldn't stop smoking, could he?

COLE: He loved his cigarettes. He loved his cigarette lighter.

KING: It was part of the act. Did you smoke?

COLE: I did up until five years. This is my fifth year.

KING: Despite what happened to your father?

COLE: Off and on, I smoked for several years, Larry, yes. I did.

KING: Boy, you roll the dice.

COLE: I did.

KING: We're looking forward to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Christmas album, and all your performances, Disney Hall here, and the book "Love Brought Me Back: A Journey of Loss and Gain," Natalie Cole. Thank you, Natalie.

COLE: Enjoy. Thank you.

KING: Ricky Martin is right here tomorrow night. Right now, "AC 360" and Anderson Cooper.