American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/19/77: Natalie Cole, “I’ve Got Love on My Mind”

I started paying closer attention to AT40 in March 76, after I figured out that the shows ran Sunday evenings at 6pm on 1360 WSAI. One of the songs I remember Casey playing at that time was “Inseparable,” by Natalie Cole, though just weeks later I wouldn’t have been able to say much about it other than it was a ballad. I’d also missed out on the peppy “This Will Be (an Everlasting Love)” in late 75, but became well familiar with the other pop hits she had through my middle/high school years and in her post-rehab comeback while I was in grad school.

There’s not too much that excites me from her latter period; plenty of folks were creeped out by/against the idea of her singing “Unforgettable” alongside her father’s ghost, but I thought it sounded pretty good and was a sweet tribute. As for the earlier stuff, the two I like the best are the funky “Sophisticated Lady (She’s a Different Lady)” and this week’s feature. “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” is just drop-dead gorgeous, and Natalie displays such a range of emotions and vocal stylings in singing it. It’s at #14 and got to #5, tied for her highest pop peak position (with “Pink Cadillac,” which happens to be on the 88 show also being broadcast this weekend). As much as I love Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” there’s no way it should have beaten “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” for the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy in 78 (to be honest, though, I wouldn’t have felt that way forty years ago).

Semi-interesting thing I learned this week: Natalie’s first five pop hits (and a sizable majority of the songs on her first four albums) were written by Marvin Yancy and Chuck Jackson, formerly of the Independents, who scored a modest hit with the very fine “Leaving Me” in 73. Yancy was also Cole’s first husband, from 76 to 80.

Natalie’s passing on New Year’s Eve 2015 seemed to set off a wave of musical deaths. She had talent and did some very nice work; I’m sorry her addiction issues wound up shortening her years.

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