In this May 9, 2010 file photo, U.S. singer Alicia Keys performs on stage at the Festhalle in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (AP Photo/Mario Vedder, file), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Alicia Keys: Music Maestro, Fashionista and Humanitarian
21 Jun 2011
Courtesy of Nigeria ThisDay
BY GABRIELLA OSAMOR
Alicia Keys, an accomplished pianist, is an American recording artist whose body of work tells of a multitalented, ever evolving artist in search of that perfect vehicle through which she could tell her story… of love, heartbreak and female empowerment.
She has through the years remained true to her love of singing even when she has dabbled into films and has garnered numerous awards and accolades during her musical career which started when she was a child.
Alicia,real name Alicia Augello Cook;but better known by her stage name Alicia Keys isalso a writer, she writes most of her songs. According to her "everything I have ever written has stemmed from my tears of joy, of pain, of sorrow, of depression, even of question".
Alicia Keys was born on January 25, 1981, in Manhattan, New York City, New York. She is the only child of Teresa Augello, a paralegal and part-time actress, and Craig Cook, a flight attendant.
Alicia’s mother is of Italian , Scottish, and Irish descent, and her father is African American. Her parents separated when she was two and she was subsequently raised by her mother during her formative years in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan.
In 1985, Alicia made an appearance on The Cosby Show at the age of four, where she and a group of girls played the parts of Rudy Huxtable’s sleepover guests in the episode "Slumber Party".
Throughout her childhood, Alicia was sent to music and dance classes by her mother. She began playing the piano when she was seven and learned classical music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin.
She enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 12, where she majored in choir and began writing songs at the age of 14. She graduated in three years as valedictorian at the age of 16.
In 1994 Keys met long-term manager Jeff Robinson after she enrolled in his brother's after-school program. The following year Robinson introduced Keys to her future A&R at Arista Records, Peter Edge, who later described his first impressions to HitQuarters: "I had never met a young R&B artist with that level of musicianship. So many people were just singing on top of loops and tracks, but she had the ability, not only to be part of hip-hop, but also to go way beyond that."
Edge helped Robinson create a showcase for Alicia and also got involved in developing her demo material. He was keen to sign Alicia himself but was unable to do so at that time because he was on the verge of leaving his present record company.
Alicia signed to Columbia Records soon after. At the same time as signing a recording contract with Columbia Records, Keys was accepted into Columbia University. At first, Alicia attempted to manage both but after four weeks dropped out of college to pursue her musical career fulltime.
Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and So Def Recordings, where she appeared on the label's Christmas album performing "The Little Drummer Girl". She also co-wrote and recorded a song entitled "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 film, Men in Black.
The song was Alicias' first professional recording; however, it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia ended after a dispute with the label. Alicia was unhappy with the label because her career had stalled during her two years under contract at Columbia due to executive indecision over her direction and major changes within the company.
Alicia called Clive Davis, who sensed a "special, unique" artist from her performance and signed her to Arista Records, which later disbanded. Alicia almost chose Wilde as her stage name until her manager suggested the name Keys after a dream he had.
Alicia felt that name represented her both as a performer and person. Following Davis to his newly formed J Records label, she recorded the songs "Rock wit U" and "Rear View Mirror", which were featured on the soundtracks to the films Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), respectively.
Keys released her first studio album, Songs in A Minor, in June 2001. It debuted at number one on the Billboard200 and sold 236,000 copies in its first week. The album sold over 6.2 million copies in the United States, where it was certified six times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Songs in A Minor went on to sell over 12 million copies worldwide, establishing Keys' popularity both inside and outside the United States, where she became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001.
The album's lead single, "Fallin'", spent six weeks at number one on the BillboardHot 100. The album's second single, "A Woman's Worth", peaked at number three on the same chart. The following year, the album was reissued as Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor, which included eight remixes and seven unplugged versions of the songs from the original.
Songs in A Minorled Keys to win five awards at the 2002 Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for "Fallin'", Best New Artist, and Best R&B Album.
"Fallin'" was also nominated for Record of the Year. Keys became the second female solo artist to win five Grammy Awards in a single night, following Lauryn Hill at the 41st Grammy Awards.
Keys became the second female solo artist to win five Grammy Awards in a single night
That same year, she collaborated with Christina Aguilera for the latter's upcoming album Stripped on a song entitled "Impossible", which Keys wrote, co-produced, and provided with background vocals.
Keys opened a recording studio in Long Island, New York, called The Oven Studios, which she co-owns with her production and songwriting partner Kerry "Krucial" Brothers. The studio was designed by renowned studio architect John Storyk of WSDG, designer of Jimi Hendrix' Electric Lady Studios.
Keys and Brothers are the co-founders of KrucialKeys Enterprises, a production and songwriting team who assisted Keys in creating her albums as well as create music for other artists. During the early 2000s, Keys also made small cameos in television series Charmed and American Dreams.
In October 2006, she played the voice of Mommy Martian in the "Mission to Mars" episode of the children's television series The Backyardigans, in which she sang an original song, "Almost Everything Is Boinga Here".
That same year, Keys nearly suffered a mental breakdown. Her grandmother had died and her family was heavily dependent on her. She felt she needed to "escape" and went to Egypt for three weeks.
She explained: "That trip was definitely the most crucial thing I've ever done for myself in my life to date. It was a very difficult time that I was dealing with, and it just came to the point where I really needed to—basically, I just needed to run away, honestly. And I needed to get as far away as possible."
Keys made her film debut in early 2007 in the crime film Smokin' Aces, co-starring as an assassin named Georgia Sykes opposite Ben Affleck and Andy García. Keys received much praise from her co-stars in the film; Reynolds said that Keys was "so natural" and that she would "blow everybody away".
In the same year, Keys earned further praise for her second film, The Nanny Diaries, based on the 2002 novel of the same name, where she co-starred alongside Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans. She also guest starred as herself in the "One Man Is an Island" episode of the drama series Cane.
Keys also starred in The Secret Life of Bees, a film adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's acclaimed 2003 bestseller novel of the same name alongside Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah, released in October 2008 via Fox Searchlight.
(L-R) Actors Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys, Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, actors Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Tristan Wilds, Jennifer Hudson, producer Lauren Shuler Donner and actor Nate Parker from the film "The Secret Life Of Bees", pose for a portrait during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival at The Sutton Place Hotel on September 6, 2008 in Toronto, Canada.
Her role earned her a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. She also received three nominations at the 2009 Grammy Awards and won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Superwoman". Most recently Alicia Keys was one of the performers at the BET Awards 2011.
Marriage and Motherhood
Alicia met her husband record producer Swizz Beatz when she collaborated with him to write and produce "Million Dollar Bill" for Whitney Houston's seventh studio album, I Look to You and in May 2009, Swizz Beatz announced that he and Keys were romantically involved.
May 2010, a representative for Keys and Swizz Beatz confirmed that they were engaged and expecting a child together. During the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the couple took part of a union and had the unborn child blessed in a Zulu ceremony, which took place in the Illovo suburb of South Africa.
Alicia and Swizz Beatz were married on the French island of Corsica on July 31, 2010. On October 14, 2010, Keys gave birth to a son, Egypt Daoud Ibarr Dean, in New York City.
Keys is the co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organisation that provides medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa. Keys and U2 lead singer Bono recorded a cover version of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush's "Don't Give Up", in recognition of World AIDS Day 2005.
Keys and Bono's version of the song was retitled "Don't Give Up (Africa)" to reflect the nature of the charity it was benefiting. She visited African countries such as Uganda, Kenya and South Africa to promote care for children affected by AIDS. Her work in Africa was documented in the documentary Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland and was available in April 2008.
Keys has also donated to Frum tha Ground Up, a non-profit organisation that aids children and teenagers with scholarships. She performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of the worldwide Live 8 concerts to raise awareness of the poverty in Africa and to pressure the G8 leaders to take action. Keys performed on ReAct Now: Music & Relief and Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, two benefit programs that raised money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Throughout her career, Keys has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. In fact the Billboard magazine named her the top R&B artist of the 2000–2009 decade. Alicia has not only established herself as one of the best-selling artists of her time, (VH1 included Keys on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time), she has shown that talent with hard work are all it takes to be a star with heart.