Alicia Keys Biography
This page for Alicia Keys Biography.
||Birth name : Alicia Augello Cook|
|Date of birth : 25 January 1981|
|Place of birth: New York City, New York, USA|
|Height: 5' 8" (1.73 m)|
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Alicia Keys (born Alicia J. Augello-Cook on January 25, 1981) is an American R&B musician and film actress who has sold over 25 million albums worldwide as of 2007, and has won numerous awards, including eleven Grammy Awards, eleven Billboard Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and fourteen NAACP Image Awards.
Keys was born in the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem, in New York City, New York, to Teresa "Terri" Augello, a paralegal and part-time actress, and Craig Cook, a flight attendant. Keys' mother is of Irish, Scottish, and Italian descent and her father is Jamaican. Keys describes herself as comfortable with her biracial heritage : "I grew up in New York, and thank God, I never had to go through that in regards to, 'You're not black enough, you're not white enough,' the whole kind of white/black-mixture thing. I never had to go through that. I went through prejudices and all, surely. But I never had to battle with those two parts of me."
Her official website says she possesses an "old soul," and the hard facts seem to back up the implied claim of wisdom and experience that transcend Alicia Keys' youth. Barely in her twenties, Keys was responsible for an extremely hot debut, Songs in A Minor. The release, which she wrote and produced for Clive Davis' J Records, blends diverse influences, including R&B, hip-hop, classical, and jazz. The day the album went on the market, it sold more than 50,000 copies. Label executives confidently predicted similarly favorable numbers for the first week's tally.
Keys' parents separated during her early childhood, and she was subsequently raised by her mother during her formative years in Hell's Kitchen, also in Manhattan. In 1985, Keys and a group of other girls played the parts of Rudy Huxtable's sleepover guests in an episode of The Cosby Show called "Slumber Party". She began playing the piano when she was seven, learning classical music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and her favorite, Chopin. Keys almost chose Wilde as her stage name at age sixteen until her manager suggested the name Keys after a dream he had. Keys felt that name represented her both as a performer and person.
Around the time that Songs in A Minor was released, Keys was popping up everywhere, including an Associated Press story. Where had she been before then? Her entire life, it seems, had been an accelerated learning experience, preparing her for a career in music. A Manhattan native, her musical gifts became apparent when she was five years old. As a choir major enrolled in Manhattan's Professional Performance Arts School, she further developed her vocal talents with extra help from a teacher. By the time she was 16, Keys graduated and entered Columbia University. Music beckoned, however, and she quickly left Columbia behind.
Keys graduated from the Professional Performing Arts School, a prestigious high school in Manhattan, as valedictorian at the age of sixteen in only three years. Although accepted to Columbia University, she decided to drop out and pursue her musical career. Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label, then distributed by Columbia Records. She co-wrote and recorded a song entitled "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 blockbuster, Men in Black. The song was Keys' first professional recording; however, it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia Records ended quickly. Keys later met Clive Davis, who signed her to Arista Records, which has since disbanded. Following Davis to his newly-formed J Records label, she recorded the songs "Rock wit U" and "Rear View Mirror", featured on the soundtracks to the films Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) respectively. Keys then released her debut album, Songs in A Minor.
Keys was writing songs when she was 14, with seven years of piano lessons under her belt by that time. In later years, she appeared on movie soundtracks, including Shaft and Men in Black. In 1998, she signed a deal with Arista Records when the company triumphed in a bidding war over other labels. When Davis left the company for J Records in 1999, Keys went along. Davis promoted the careers of such artists as Carlos Santana and Whitney Houston, and part of his launch strategy for Keys was to secure exposure on BET and MTV, as well as on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Selling over 235,000 copies in its first week (more than 50,000 of those on its first day), Songs in A Minor, released on June 5, 2001, went on to sell over ten million units worldwide, and established Keys' popularity both outside and inside the U.S., where she became the best-selling new artist of 2001 (as well as the best-selling R&B artist). The album's first single, "Fallin'", gained radio airplay on many different radio formats and spent six weeks at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Keys performed Donny Hathaway's 1973 song "Someday We'll All Be Free" at the America: A Tribute to Heroes televised benefit concert following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Another single from Songs in A Minor, "A Woman's Worth", made the top ten in the U.S. as well. The album led Keys to win five Grammy Awards in 2002: "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". This made Keys become one of the five female solo artists who won five Grammy Awards in a single night alongside Lauryn Hill (1999), Norah Jones (2003), Beyoncé (2004), and Amy Winehouse (2008). On October 22, 2002, Songs in A Minor was reissued as Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor, including eight remixes and seven unplugged versions of some of the songs from the original album.
Critical reviews of the album were mostly positive. Keys' work had a sound similar to 1970s soul singers such as Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder along with hip hop influences like those apparent in neo soul artists such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and D'Angelo. By that time, Keys wrote, produced, played the piano, and sang background for Christina Aguilera's song "Impossible", from the latter's 2002 album Stripped.
Her 2001 major-label debut, Songs in A Minor, hit number one, went multi-platinum, and was followed in 2003 by another chart-topper, The Diary of Alicia Keys, which became a Grammy winner. The live CD/DVD Unplugged appeared in 2005, following her previous releases to the top of the charts.
Keys followed up her debut with The Diary of Alicia Keys, released on December 2, 2003. The album was hailed by critics, and debuted at number one in the U.S., selling over 618,000 copies its first week of release, becoming the sixth biggest-selling album by a female artist and the second biggest-selling album by a female R&B artist. To date, it has sold nine million copies worldwide.
The singles "You Don't Know My Name" and "If I Ain't Got You" both reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and another single, "Diary", entered the top ten. The classical/hip hop-flavored "Karma" was less successful, peaking at number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100 but more successful on the Top 40 Mainstream peaking at number three. "If I Ain't Got You" became the first single by a female artist to remain on the sixty-three-year-old Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for more than one year, surpassing Mary J. Blige's "Your Child", which had remained on the chart for forty-nine weeks. Keys went on to become the best-selling female R&B artist of 2004.
At the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards, Keys won "Best R&B Video" for "If I Ain't Got You", and also led Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder in their version of Wonder's "Higher Ground". In 2005, Keys won her second consecutive award for "Best R&B Video", this time for the video for "Karma".
At the 2005 Grammy Awards, Keys performed the album's second single, "If I Ain't Got You", and then joined Jamie Foxx and Quincy Jones in a rendition of "Georgia on My Mind", the Hoagy Carmichael song made famous by Ray Charles in 1960. That evening, she won four Grammy Awards: "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance" for "If I Ain't Got You", "Best R&B Song" for "You Don't Know My Name", "Best R&B Album" for The Diary of Alicia Keys, and "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals" for "My Boo" with Usher. She was also nominated for "Album of the Year" for The Diary of Alicia Keys, "Song of the Year" for "If I Ain't Got You", "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals" for "Diary" (featuring Tony! Toni! Toné!), and "Best R&B Song" for "My Boo".
Keys performed and taped her installment of the MTV Unplugged series on July 14, 2005 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During this live session, Keys added brand-new arrangements to her original songs such as "A Woman's Worth" and the funk-driven "Heartburn", and performed a few choice covers. Part of Keys' audience also included her guest performers; she collaborated with rappers Common and Mos Def on "Love It or Leave It Alone", reggae artist Damian Marley on "Welcome to Jamrock", and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine on a cover of The Rolling Stones' 1971 "Wild Horses".
In addition to a cover of "Every Little Bit Hurts", previously recorded by singers such as Aretha Franklin and Brenda Holloway, Keys also premiered two new original songs: "Stolen Moments", which she co-wrote with producer Lamont Green, and "Unbreakable", the album's lead single, which peaked at number four and number thirty-four on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and the Hot 100 respectively. It was more successful on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay, where it stayed at number one for eleven weeks in late 2005. The session was released on CD and DVD on October 11, 2005. Simply titled Unplugged, the album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart with 196,000 units sold in its first week of release. So far the album has sold one million copies in the United States and two million copies worldwide.
The debut of Keys' Unplugged was the highest debut for an MTV Unplugged album since Nirvana's 1994 MTV Unplugged in New York and the first Unplugged by a female artist to debut at number one. The album received four nominations at the 2006 Grammy Awards: "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance" for "Unbreakable", "Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance" for "If I Was Your Woman", "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals" for her rendition of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's classic "If This World Were Mine" with Jermaine Paul, "Best R&B Song" for "Unbreakable", and "Best R&B Album". It also won three NAACP Image Awards that same year: "Outstanding Female Artist", "Outstanding Song" for "Unbreakable", and "Outstanding Music Video" for "Unbreakable".
Since late 2006, Keys worked on her third studio album, As I Am whose title was confirmed in a red-carpet interview at the 2007 BET Awards on June 26, released on November 13, 2007. Keys talked to MTV in early 2007 about the album: "It's coming together incredibly. I am in love with this album. It's very fresh and new". Rolling Stone magazine reported in December 2005 that Keys and her long-term songwriting partner Kerry "Krucial" Brothers would start working seriously on the album in the later half of 2006.
As I Am debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 742,000 copies, gaining Keys the second largest sales week of 2007 and the largest sales week for a female solo artist since Norah Jones' 2004 album Feels Like Home, and also set a record as Keys' largest sales week of her career. This managed to tie Keys with Britney Spears for the most consecutive number-one debuts on the Billboard 200 by a female artist (four). In addition, the album also debuted at number one on the United World Chart selling 876,000.
Since then, As I Am has sold over one million copies in two weeks of its debut, selling 359,000 copies in the second week. The lead single "No One" debuted at number seventy-one on the Billboard Hot 100, and has since peaked at number one, becoming Keys' third number one on the chart, and was also her fifth number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Furthermore, the song earned Keys the awards for "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance" and "Best R&B Song" at the 2008 Grammy Awards on February 10. Keys opened the ceremony singing Frank Sinatra's 1950s song "Learnin' the Blues" as a "duet" with archival footage of Sinatra in video. Later on, she performed No One with John Mayer. The album's second single, "Like You'll Never See Me Again", released in late 2007, reached the top fifteen of the Billboard Hot 100, and secured another R&B chart-topper for Keys.
Keys sang the outro to John Mayer's song "Gravity" on his album Continuum and in a surprise appearance with him at his sold-out show at Madison Square Garden on February 28, 2007. Keys has opened a new 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 award-winning albums as well as create music for other artists. Keys was scheduled to perform at the Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England, on February 26, 2008 in promotion of As I Am. However, she was forced to postpone the concert due to contracting laryngitis. Doctors advised her to rest, and the concert was rescheduled.
During the early 2000s, Keys made small cameos in such television series as Charmed and American Dreams. In early 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 the song "Almost Everything Is Boinga Here". Keys guest starred as herself in the "One Man Is an Island" episode of the drama series Cane, first aired on November 6, 2007.
Keys made her big-screen debut in early 2007 in the crime film Smokin' Aces, co-starring as an assassin named Georgia Sykes opposite Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, Common, Andy Garcia, Taraji P. Henson, Jeremy Piven and Ryan Reynolds. Keys received much praise from her co-stars in the film; Reynolds said that Keys had "natural" acting ability as he was surprised she had not starred in films before.
Keys earned further praise for her second film outing, The Nanny Diaries based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus , released on August 24, 2007, in which she co-stars alongside Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans as Lynette, Johansson's character Annie's best friend. Brooklyn's Kingsborough Community College was used to film the college graduation scene for the film.
Keys and her long-term manager Jeff Robinson have signed a first-look film production deal to develop live-action and animated projects with Disney, Variety reports. Their first film, a remake of the 1958 comedy Bell, Book and Candle, will star Keys as a witch who casts a love spell to lure a rival's fiancé. Keys and Robinson have also formed a television production company called Big Pita. Their first project will be a CW Network TV series inspired by Keys' experiences as a biracial child growing up in New York, similar to the network's Everybody Hates Chris.Keys has been tapped to executively produce an upcoming TV drama. The title and airing date are presently unconfirmed. Keys and Robinson said they will develop live-action and animated projects at their company, Big Pita, Little Pita, with Keys participating as producer, thesp, banner spearheading soundtrack, and music supervision.
Keys has signed to star in a film adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's acclaimed 2003 bestseller The Secret Life of Bees alongside Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah, expected to be released in 2008 via Fox Searchlight. Gina Prince-Bythewood will direct the film, whose filming is to begin in January in North Carolina. Keys will also play 1940s biracial piano child prodigy Philippa Schuyler in an upcoming film entitled Composition in Black and White. It is based on the 1995 biographical book of the same name by Kathryn Talalay and follows the story of Philippa Schuyler. "The challenge, in order to actually be able to play classical piano as a woman of mixed race, was by far more than I could ever imagine", Keys said. "That's what intrigued me about that role".
The biopic will tell the difficult tale of Schuyler's controversial career, love-hate relationship with her mother, and the black community, her second career as a writer, and her eventual death in a helicopter accident. "Her story is very deep, even up to the point where the relationship between her and her mother gets very strained and she chooses to go to Europe and pass as a Spanish woman in order to be able to play, in order to be able to live a more normal life", Keys said, adding that she and Halle Berry hope to start shooting in early 2008. "As of right now, we're still in the first, second draft of the script", she said. "So a little bit of time at least a year".
Besides being a musician, Keys is also a philanthropist. She is a spokeswoman for Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organization that provides life-saving AIDS medicines directly to children and families with HIV/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 2006. Keys and Bono's version of the song was retitled "Don't Give Up (Africa)" to show the two musicians' support for helping to raise awareness of people living with HIV and AIDS and acknowledging the twenty-five million Africans (forty million people worldwide) living with the disease. Cingular Wireless announced the debut of an exclusive Music Tone ringtone available only through the Cingular Sounds music program. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the ringtone sales will go to Keep a Child Alive.
Keys has visited African countries such as Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa to promote care for children affected by AIDS. Keys, the global ambassador and co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, jet in on a four-day working visit in Masaka, Uganda on April 10, 2006 to bolster the HIV/AIDS crusade and give a ray of hope to families and children devastated by the scourge. Keys visited sites funded by the organization "and brought footage home to the American public to encourage them to do more to help", according to a KACA statement. Throughout her visit, a film crew followed and documented the progress at both of these facilities for American news outlets.
Keys is also a spokewoman for Frum tha Ground Up, a charity devoted to inspiring, encouraging, and motivating American youths to achieve success on all levels. Keys also participated in other humanitarian efforts in 2005 by performing at several exclusive concerts and television shows. On July 2, Keys performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of the worldwide Live 8 concerts. The mission of the concerts was to raise awareness of the on-going poverty in Africa and to pressure the G8 leaders to take action by doubling aid, canceling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa. In August 2005, Keys performed on ReAct Now: Music & Relief, a benefit program shown on music video channels to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. The following month, Keys performed at Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, another Hurricane Katrina benefit concert. Keys is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
On July 7, 2007, Keys and Keith Urban performed The Rolling Stones' 1969 hit "Gimme Shelter" at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey at the American leg of the Live Earth concerts. Keys participated at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert which took place at the Oslo Spektrum in Oslo, Norway, on December 11, 2007, together with a variety of artists. The concert was broadcast to over one hundred countries.
The press reported in 2005 that Keys was attempting to reconcile with her father. However, Keys denied this and said her words were misinterpreted. In an interview with Blender Magazine published March 19, 2008, Keys caused a stir in the media, stating that she believes the rivalry between Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur was fueled "by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing." She also claimed that "Gangsta rap' was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. `Gangsta rap' didn't exist." However, she did not reveal what she believed to be the original source of "Gangsta rap". During the interview she revealed that she wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck “to symbolize strength, power and killing ’em dead.”
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