January 7, 2016 6:05 AM EST

Natalie Cole was the most un-star-like superstar you could ever meet. She was someone you could confide in, with a sympathetic ear and generosity of heart.

We shared countless hours together in the studio and touring the world. Sitting behind the piano while she commanded the stage provided the best view of how quickly she connected with her audience. She knew how to establish an immediate rapport, as though she were singing to each listener individually. Producing “Unforgettable” was so musically gratifying, and that the public responded with such enthusiasm was the cherry on top for us both. Hearing her voice blend with her dad’s–the brilliant Nat “King” Cole–was a moment I’ll cherish.

Natalie is one of those rare artists who don’t just perform songs–they inhabit them. I use the present tense, because her music, just like her father’s, will live on for generations.

Foster is a Grammy Award–winning musician and the chairman of Verve Records

This appears in the January 18, 2016 issue of TIME.

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