SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- It's been four years since Natalie Cole received a kidney from a Salvadorian donor, and the singer says it not only connected her to Hispanic culture, it has given her the strength to record her first post-operation album -- totally in Spanish.
"I don't believe in coincidences. I believe everything happens for a reason. That this was a Latin family, I feel like I'm part Latino now. That (made) the desire to make this record became even stronger," Cole said recently during a private listening session of "Natalie Cole En Espanol," released this week.
This is Cole's first album since she received her kidney in May 2009. Her donor was a young woman from El Salvador who died while giving birth to a baby boy, Lucas, said Cole (the Grammy-winner received the donation after suffering from hepatitis C, a liver disease spread through contact with infected blood).
"I couldn't totally grasp, understand it, but there's something there, the spirit of this young girl, the spirit of this family, the spirit of the Latin culture, of a Latin heart is inside me," the 63-year-old said.
Produced by Cuban-American Rudy Perez, the 12-track album is a compilation of Latin American classics, plus a Spanish-language version of the Beatles' "And I Love Her." It includes titles like "Solamente Una Vez" by Mexican Agustin Lara, "El Dia que Me Quieras" by Argentine Carlos Gardel and a medley of "Voy a Apagar La Luz" and "Contigo Aprendí" by Mexican Armando Manzanero, as well as two duets: "Besame Mucho," with Italian Andrea Bocelli, and "Bachata Rosa," with Dominican music legend Juan Luis Guerra.
The album title is reminiscent of her famous father Nat King Cole's "Cole Espanol," which brought him love and recognition in Spanish-speaking countries.
Cole, who famously sang with her deceased father with technological wizardry on the best-selling "Unforgettable," now sings "Acercate Mas" with him on the new album over a recording he did in Cuba in 1956. This duet was possible thanks to a recently discovered recording that Nat King Cole did in Cuba in 1956, said Perez.
Both father and daughter recorded their Spanish albums learning the lyrics phonetically; neither of them spoke the language.
"Black people and Hispanic people have the same kind of feel for passion, for music, for fun, for heart," Cole said. "We are very similar in that way and that to me is the next language. I love French ... I love Portuguese, I love Italiano, but for me right now is Espanol."