Cole, who had longstanding health issues including complications from a kidney transplant, died on New Year’s Eve at a Los Angeles hospital.
“Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived — with dignity, strength and honor,” her family said in a statement.
Quoting her most identifiable song, the family said: “Our beloved mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever.”
Tributes quickly came in. The civil rights leader Jesse Jackson mourned Cole on Twitter as a “sister beloved… of substance and sound. May her soul rest in peace.”