'Unforgettable' angers arranger's son

April 24, 1992|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES : — LOS ANGELES -- Even after a year on the pop charts, Natalie Cole's Grammy-winning "Unforgettable" album is still unforgettable.

Yet, what Christopher Riddle, son of the late arranger Nelson Riddle, can't forget is how angry he is.

The record, a tribute to Ms. Cole's father, jazz crooner Nat King Cole, has sold more than 4 million copies, received seven Grammy Awards and has made the singer the toast of Hollywood.

But the 41-year-old Riddle said he is incensed that Ms. Cole's interpretation of "Unforgettable" -- a song he claims features an uncredited 1951 Nelson Riddle arrangement -- nabbed Best Arrangement honors at this year's Grammy Awards.

Mr. Riddle said he wants an apology from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Burbank-based organization that sponsors the Grammys, and a posthumous Grammy awarded to his father.

"My family and I have been sitting back and watching this record be resurged in 1991," Mr. Riddle said during a telephone interview from his Massachusetts home. "Did they really think we would sit back and watch it get that? There's only so much you can swallow."

The Grammy Awards immediately raised questions about the academy's nomination criteria, since, after all, "Unforgettable" is 40 years old. The academy defended itself, saying Ms. Cole's interpretation of the song features a new arrangement, credited to Johnny Mandel.

Modern technology allowed Ms. Cole to perform a duet with her late father on "Unforgettable."

"We went through a long thing with Johnny when we were verifying the credits," said Michael Greene, the recording academy president. "This arrangement, as best as we can tell, is 80 to 85 percent new.

"The credits on the album say Johnny Mandel, and that's really all we can go by. If Chris wants to take issue with this, he'll have to get together with Elektra Records and Johnny, and get it straightened out there first."

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