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Ladies of Note

by David Westheimer


What do Natalie Cole, Bonnie Raitt, Pam Tillis, Rosanne Cash, Debby Boone and Jeannie Kendall have in common other than the fact they are all singers?

All their fathers are, or were, singers, too.

Natalies father, Nat "King" Cole, isnt with us any more but she sings his songs and to me sounds like a female version of him. Style, phrasing, articulation. It was not always thus.

Natalie Cole was born in 1950. As a child, she sometimes sang with her father but it was more of a stunt than a duet. But when she became a singer in her right it was not as a clone of dad. Starting in college, she sang soul and rhythm and blues, signing with Capitol Records in 1975. She had a pretty decent career for many years but that career really took off in 1991 with an album, Unforgettable, featuring songs originally recorded by Nat Cole. She even sang the title song with him, a duet with her singing along with his recording of the song.

Bonnie Raitt plays guitar and sings folk and blues, a far cry from her fathers field. John Raitt was a leading star of musical comedy on both stage and screen. He made his Broadway debut in Carousel in 1945. He has starred in Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, The Pajama Game, The Music Man, and Show Boat. He has appeared many times in concert, sometimes with Bonnie, one of those times being a concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra under John Williams.

Bonnie began playing and singing for pay 1969, when she dropped out of college. After playing clubs she got a record contract and did several successful albums but didnt hit the national scene in a big way until 1989, when she won the Grammy Award for her album, Nick of Time. Asked on a TV interview show how the Grammy had changed her life, she said it made it easier to get romantically involved. Though that isnt exactly how she put it. The phrase she used for "romantically involved" was earthier and far more graphic.

Rosanne Cash is a child of Johnny Cashs first marriage, born in 1955. (Johnny Cash has been a major country music star for decades.) She writes songs as well as sings them and many of her songs have been No. 1 on the country music charts but she does not think of herself as a "country music" artist. (She says she "doesnt know anything about country music.") She also writes short stories, and a collection of them, "Bodies of Water," has been published. Her father sang Ballad Of Teenage Queen with her in an album titled Right Or Wrong/Seven Year Itch.

Debby Boone sings Christian songs, pop ballads and country tunes, like her father, Pat Boone. (Her grandfather, Red Foley, was a singer, too.) Born in 1956, she sang in a quartet with her sisters, Cherry, Lindy and Laura, at thirteen. She went on her own in 1977 and won a Grammy with her recording of You Light Up My Life. She married Gabriel Ferrer, son of the late Rosemary Clooney, making her kin by marriage to Rosemarys nephew, George Clooney. Cousin? She also writes childrens books.

Country star Pam Tillis, 45, is one of country superstar Mel Tillis five children. Mel Tillis is know for his humor almost as much as for his music. A stammerer for most of his life, the stammer was not evident in his singing and was a source of much humor in his between-song banter. Pam shares his sense of fun. In one of her music videos, "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial," she dresses in ancient Egyptian costume and does pseudo-ancient Egyptian choreography. On her 2001 CD, Thunder and Roses, she does a duet with her dad. She sometimes appears in family shows with her sisters, Carrie and Connie, and her father at his Mel Tillis Branson Theater off the Branson, Missouri Strip.

Jeannie Kendall differs from the other ladies whose fathers were also singers. Shes made a career singing with her late father, Royce. Now 48, and married to a member of the band, she began singing with her father when she was 15. They were billed as The Kendalls. You couldnt tell they were father and daughter listening to some of their songs. Their Heavens Just a Sin Away was a Country Single Of The Year. Other titles are Youd Make An Angel Want To Cheat, Teach Me To Cheat, It Dont Feel Like Sinnin To Me and Take Me To Heaven Before You Take Me Home.

Maybe it was just a father's way of informing his daughter about the birds and the bees.


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