Alicia Keys was born in New York in the year 1981 on January 25. Her original name was Alicia Augello Cook, and she was raised solely by her mother, Teresa Augello. Her mother was a part-time actress as well as a paralegal. Keys is part Jamaican from her father’s side and part Italian form her mother’s, while she also claims to have some Irish or Scottish blood. Her multicultural heritage is something she appreciates as she feels able to relate to various cultures because of it. However, her father was not in the picture since Keys was two years old.
Keys started piano lessons when she was a mere seven years old. Later on, she attended the Professional Performance Arts School and graduated from there as well. After her graduation, she signed up to work with Arista Records; more specifically, she was working with their representative Clive Davis. This signing was the result of a bidding war among record label companies, as Keys had already attracted the attention of several record company executives while she was in high school.
Having studied in such a prestigious institution, Keys was lucky enough to have her talent recognized early on. While she was accepted at Columbia University, she left that institution after four weeks in order to concentrate solely on her music.
Davis eventually left Arista Records and started his own record label, which was named J Records. Alicia Keys followed Davis and released her debut album with that record label. As mentioned above, this debut album went platinum no less than five times, which is a major achievement in the world of music. She also won a whopping five Grammys from the same album.
Alicia Keys went on to release several hit albums one after the other. These include ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’ in 2003, ‘As I Am’ in 2007, and ‘Girl on Fire’ in 2009. All of these earned her Grammys as well. We’ll take a closer look at each of her albums below:
It was in 1999 when Clive Davis, who was heading Arista Records, left that record company. Some sources say he was ousted from the company and Keys’ album was put on hold. Alicia Keys followed Davis, trusting in his guidance and appreciating how he let an artist find their own thing instead of trying to divert them. This was a logical decision, as Davis had previously guided several careers of legendary names like Aretha Franklin.
Keys was already seen as a precocious artist, and was writing and producing her own music as well as singing. With J Records, Keys got the freedom to complete her first album in the way she wanted. This album also included some material that she had worked on several years before.
Before the debut album was released, Clive Davis set the scene for the maximum impression. This included a sort of media blitz, such as Keys’ appearing on Oprah one day before the album was released. After the debit album finally hit the shelves in music stores, its success was the stuff of legend.
Music critics had a lot of praise for Keys’ debut album, raving about its musical polish as well as the maturity of the lyrics. These praises were extruded into the five Grammys that Keys won in 2002. These were the awards for Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Song of the Year, Best R&B Album, and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
The second album by this artist was ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’. This was released in 2003. With this album, Keys proved that her first album wasn’t just beginners’ luck. The album debuted at number one on the musical charts and was also a Grammy-winning success.
In the Grammy Awards that followed this release, Keys took home the award for Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Album. She also won the Best R&B Performance by a Group or Duo for her collaboration with Usher on ‘My Boo’.
The third album by Keys was titled ‘As I Am’, and it only continued her unstoppable success. This album as also No. 1 on the charts at the time of its debut in 2007, and sold an impressive 740,000 copies in just the first week after its release. Keys also received two additional Grammys for this work.
At this point, Keys was starting to collaborate with other artists on a regular basis. In the year 2008, Keys collaborated with Jack White to record ‘Another Way to Die’. This was later the theme song for ‘Quantum of Solace’, the 2009 James Bond movie. Her 2009 single “Empire State of Mind” was also a huge hit, being a collaboration with Jay-Z, a fellow New Yorker.
Fourth and Fifth Albums
The fourth studio album for Alicia keys was titled ‘The Element of Freedom’. It wasn’t as huge a success as the first three, though it didn’t perform too badly either. At the time of its release, this album debuted at number two on the musical charts. Its lead single was ‘Doesn’t Mean Anything’. The album also got to number 60 with the Billboard Hot 200, which is no mean feat. This was also the album that was the first of Keys’ work to get to No. 1 in the UK.
Keys’ fifth album was titled ‘Girl on Fire’ and was released in 2012. This saw the return of Keys to the very top of the music charts. In 2014, Keys won a Grammy for the Best R&B Album.
Keys was churning out success after success, and the sixth studio album was no different. Released in 2016, this album was titled ‘Here’ and featured singles such as “Blended Family (What You Do for Love)” and “In Common”. The album reached the second spot on the Billboard Hot 200 and was at the top when it came to the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
Projects on Television ad Film
Since her mother was a part-time actress, the young Alicia Keys was no stranger to appearing on television. At the age of 4, she appeared on “The Cosby Show” as one of the children’s (Keisha Knight-Pulliam) friends. She also appeared in several other series some years after that first appearance. These shoes include American Dreams, The Backyardigans, and Charmed.
However, the artist’s main screen debut wasn’t until 2006, when she appeared in Smokin’ Aces, an action film. She played the character of Georgia Sykes and had quite a bit of success with it. Her acting career also included roles in The Nanny Diaries in 2007 and The Secret Life of Bees in 2008. Her co-stars included the likes of Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah. She was also a director of a segment for the anthology television film ‘Five’ in 2011.
Alicia Keys was also in the second season of Empire, the popular television series. Her part was a recurring role of the character Skye Summers. In 2016, she was a judge on Season 11 of The Voice alongside Miley Cyrus. While Keys left this position after a couple of seasons, she came back in season 14.
Hosting the Grammy Awards
In addition to winning numerous Grammys herself, Alicia Keys also received the honor of hosting the Grammy Awards in the February of 2019. She was also a contributor to the festivities, as she switched between pianos and played some of her favorite songs. These included tracks by Roberta Flack, Nat King Cole, and Lauryn Hill. Her hosting was praised by many, some even calling her the perfect host for the Grammys.
Keys also came back as a host the next year, contributing to a poignant moment in honoring the deceased Kobe Bryant, the legendary basketball player. She joined up with Boyz II Men and sang ‘It’s Hard to Say Goodbye’ in a fitting tribute.
The Personal Life of Alicia Keys
The childhood of Alicia Keys may have been a bit troubled, with a mother insisting on her plating the piano and an absent father. Keys does report feeling angry with her father for not being around when she was a child. However, she states that she now focuses on the strength and determination that her mother inspired in her.
Moving on to her adult life, Keys was married in the July of 2010 to Swiss Beatz. Her husband was a hip-hop producer and also hails from New York. They had a son in the October of the same year. In the December of 2014, they had a second son. Their sons’ names are Egypt Daoud Dean and Genesis Ali Dean respectively.
Alicia Keys has also been known to be active for the causes she believes in. On the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the President of the United States. Keys joined up with several other celebrity activists. These included Madonna, Angela Davis, Cher, Scarlett Johansson, etc. They all took part in the Women’s March, inspiring sister marches across the globe. These women protested the stance of President Trump on several issues, including environmental protection and immigration.
Alicia Keys also addressed the crowd at this point, praising the roles of women and their potential. She spoke against hate, bigotry, and issues such as Muslim registry. She also spoke for equality, health care, and education.
While Alicia Keys might not be the youngest artist on the music scene, she’s certainly one of the most successful and influential personalities out there. With huge success under her belt, she hasn’t forgotten the important causes and continues to fight for them. It’s possible that her success and activism will continue, inspiring several generations now and in the future.