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Grammy Producer Defends Natalie Cole’s Appropriate Tribute


Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Race to Erase MSTuesday, the family of the late Natalie Cole expressed their frustration over what they felt was the minimal attention the singer received at Monday night’s Grammys, while other late musicians were honored with all-star performance tributes.  Now Grammy organizers are explaining their decision to skip an tribute performance for her and instead show a vintage film clip during the annual “In Memoriam” segment.

“Frankly, I think it was appropriate,” the show’s longtime producer, Ken Ehrlich, tells Billboard, adding that he thought the video clip was the most “touching and emotional” tribute.

Ehrlich adds that the family was aware of how Cole would be remembered.  “For the record, there was an email exchange, and I told [Cole’s sister] Timolin what we were doing, and she seemed to be very happy with it,” he recalls, adding that he initially considered having someone perform Cole’s “Miss You Like Crazy.” “But when I looked again at the Grammy show we did where she won for ‘Unforgettable,’ and I saw the last 45 seconds of that number, where her father [Nat King Cole, on the big screen] throws her a kiss, she throws him a kiss, and then she turns to the audience and throws everybody a kiss — that just was so touching and so emotional to me that that felt like it had to be the end of the whole ‘In Memoriam’ segment.,” says Erlich.  “I hadn’t looked at that clip in several years, but when I saw it again, I knew it was right.”

Cole’s son, Robert Adam Yancy, told Entertainment Tonight that Cole “deserves more than a minute-and-a-half tribute.”  Timolin and sister Casey added: “Words cannot express the outrage and utter disappointment at the disrespectful tribute, or lack thereof, to a legendary artist such as our sister.”

David Wild, who’s co-written the Grammy telecast since 2001, says a lot of thought that went into the decision to show the clip, with Ehrlich’s help.  “That clip really impacted him, and he thought, he’s not gonna do better at Natalie than Natalie,” Wild says. “When he found that clip and showed it to me, he was sort of in tears, because it meant so much to him.”

As previously reported, other late artists received musical tributes, including David Bowie, B.B. King, Maurice White, Lemmy Kilmister and Glenn Frey.

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