Keys, Alicia


Keys, Alicia
▪ 2006

      On Feb. 13, 2005, 24-year-old rhythm-and-blues singer-songwriter Alicia Keys cemented her status as one of pop music's leading lights by winning four Grammy Awards, notching wins in four R&B categories: best album, song, female vocal performance, and performance by a duo or group with vocals (with Usher [q.v.]). Held at Los Angeles's Staples Center, the awards show also found Keys performing her hit single “If I Ain't Got You” and then joining actor Jamie Foxx (Foxx, Jamie ) (q.v.) and producer Quincy Jones for an onstage tribute to the legendary Ray Charles.

      Grammy night was only one highlight of Keys's year, which found her touring in support of her sophomore album, The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003). She also recorded and released Unplugged, an album from the MTV television special on which the deft pianist performed stripped-down versions of past hits, two new songs, and covers of songs popularized by Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones. In 2005 Keys also won prizes at the NAACP Image Awards, the Soul Train Awards, and the BET Awards.

      Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook on Jan. 25, 1981, in New York City and began performing at age 4 in a production of The Wizard of Oz. She started playing piano at age 7, concentrating on classical music and jazz, and at 14 began writing her own songs. At 16 she graduated as valedictorian from the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan. Keys's compositions showed modern influences but were rooted in the sounds of earlier soul artists, including Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, and her piano skills, intellect, and rangy voice attracted the attention of record mogul Clive Davis. She signed to Davis's Arista Records in 1998 and went with him when he formed J Records in 1999. Keys released Songs in A Minor (2001), a wildly successful debut album that spawned a number one hit with “Fallin'” and went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide. The album was praised as an accomplished blend of classic-sounding rhythm and blues and contemporary urban music. Keys won five Grammy Awards in 2002, including those for song of the year and best new artist.

      The success of her debut album established Keys as a star, and she continued her momentum in the following years. The Diary of Alicia Keys was another blockbuster, and Keys won seven Billboard Music Awards in 2004, the same year she released a book, Tears for Water, and a duet with Usher called “My Boo” that spent six weeks as the number one song on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

Peter Cooper

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▪ American musician
original name  Alicia Augello Cook 
born Jan. 25, 1981, New York, N.Y., U.S.
 
 American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress, who achieved enormous success in the early 2000s with her blend of R&B (rhythm and blues) and soul music.

      Keys began performing at age four and playing piano at age seven, concentrating on classical music and jazz. At age 14 she began composing, and two years later she graduated as valedictorian from the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan. Keys's compositions showed modern influences but were rooted in the sounds of earlier soul artists, including Marvin Gaye (Gaye, Marvin) and Stevie Wonder (Wonder, Stevie). After attracting the attention of record mogul Clive Davis, she signed to his Arista Records in 1998, and, when Davis formed J Records in 2000, she was one of the first artists to sign with the new label. In 2001 Keys released Songs in A Minor, a hugely successful debut album that featured a number one hit with "Fallin'" and that went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide. She won five Grammy Awards (Grammy Award) in 2002, including those for song of the year and best new artist.

      The following year Keys released a second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys. She also recorded a duet with Usher called "My Boo," which for six weeks was the number one song on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. In 2005 Keys cemented her status as one of pop music's leading artists by winning four Grammy Awards: best album, song, female vocal performance, and performance by a duo or group with vocals. That same year she recorded and released Unplugged, an album from the MTV special on which she performed stripped-down versions of past hits, new songs, and covers of songs popularized by Aretha Franklin (Franklin, Aretha) and by the Rolling Stones (Rolling Stones, the). In 2007 Keys released the soul (soul music)-infused As I Am, which featured the Grammy-winning single "No One." The following year she teamed with Jack White of the White Stripes on "Another Way to Die," the lead single on the sound track to the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

      In addition to her music-related activities, Keys acted in several films, including Smokin' Aces (2006), The Nanny Diaries (2007), and The Secret Life of Bees (2008).

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Universalium. 2010.

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