Shortly after the GRAMMY Awards aired on Monday, Natalie Cole's family expressed "outrage and utter disappointment at the disrespectful tribute, or lack thereof, to a legendary artist." Cole died at 65 in December; she won nine GRAMMYs, scored 21 nominations and was the first black performer to win Best New Artist. Unlike David Bowie, Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, B.B. King and The Eagles' Glenn Frey, Cole did not get her own tribute performance.
Now the GRAMMYs have responded. Producer Ken Ehrlich had the following to say about Cole's appearance in the In Memoriam segment:
“For the record, there was an email exchange, and I told Timolin [one of Cole's two sisters] what we were doing, and she seemed to be very happy with it. And what I told her is that we had talked about having an artist do something for Natalie; at one point I was playing around with ‘Miss You Like Crazy,’ because I love that song. 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. I hadn’t looked at that clip in several years, but when I saw it again, I knew it was right.”
Longtime GRAMMYs telecast co-writer David Wild said, “Before she passed, we always would have her on the show to present, and she was one of [Ehrlich's] favorites. In fact, he went to her service.” He added that as far as having a tribute performance, "he’s not gonna do better at Natalie than Natalie."