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Facts about Alicia Keys
Biography for Alicia KeysAlicia Augello Cook (born Jan. 25, 1981 (34 years ago)), better known by her stage name Alicia Keys, is an American recording artist, musician and actress. She was raised in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan in New York by her single mother, where Keys made a TV appearance on The Cosby Show at the age of four. She attended Professional Performing Arts School and graduated at 16. She later attended Columbia University before dropping out to pursue her music career. Keys released her debut album with J Records, having had previous record deals first with Columbia and then Arista Records.
Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor, was a commercial success, selling over 12 million copies worldwide. She became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001 (14 years ago). The album earned Keys five Grammy Awards in 2002 (13 years ago), including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for "Fallin'". Her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, was released in 2003 (12 years ago) and was also another success worldwide, selling eight million copies. The album garnered her an additional four Grammy Awards in 2005 (10 years ago). Later that year, she released her first live album, Unplugged, which debuted at number one in the United States. She became the first female to have an MTV Unplugged album to debut at number one and the highest since Nirvana (4 walls) in 1994 (21 years ago).
Keys made guest appearances in several TV series in the following years. She made her movie debut in Smokin' Aces and went on to appear in The Nanny Diaries in 2007 (8 years ago). Her third studio album, As I Am, was released in the same year and sold six million copies worldwide, earning Keys an additional three Grammy Awards. The following year, she appeared in The Secret Life of Bees, which earned her a nomination at the NAACP image (wallpaper) Awards. Throughout her career, Keys has won numerous awards and has sold over 30 million albums worldwide, establishing herself as one of the best-selling artists of her time.
1981–2000: Early life and career beginningsKeys was born Alicia Augello Cook on Jan. 25, 1981 (34 years ago), in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan, in New York City, New York. She is the daughter and only child of Irish-Italian mother Teresa Augello, a paralegal and part-time actress, and Jamaican father Craig Cook, a flight attendant. She expressed that she was comfortable with her biracial heritage because she felt she was able to "relate to different cultures". 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 (30 years ago), Keys 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, Keys 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. She was accepted to Columbia University and had a recording contract with Columbia Records; she attempted to manage both, but dropped out of college after four weeks to pursue her musical career.
Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and So 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 (18 years ago) film, Men in Black. The song was Keys' first professional recording; however, it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia ended after a dispute with the label. Keys called Clive Davis, who sensed a "special, unique" artist from her performance and signed her to Arista Records, which later disbanded. Keys almost chose Wilde as her stage name until her manager suggested the name Keys after a dream he had. Keys 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 movies Shaft (2000, 15 years ago) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001, 14 years ago), respectively.
Keys released her first studio album, Songs in A Minor, in Jun. 2001 (14 years ago). It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 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). It 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 (14 years ago). The album's lead single, "Fallin'", spent six weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 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 Minor led Keys to win five awards at the 2002 (13 years ago) 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. That same year, she collaborated with Christina Aguilera (88 walls) for the latter's upcoming album Stripped on a song entitled "Impossible", which Keys wrote, co-produced, and provided with background vocals. During the early 2000s, Keys also made small cameos in TV series Charmed and American Dreams.
2003–2005: The Diary of Alicia Keys and UnpluggedKeys followed up her debut with The Diary of Alicia Keys, which was released in dec. 2003 (12 years ago). The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling over 618,000 copies its first week of release, becoming the largest first week sales for a female artist in 2003 (12 years ago). It sold 4.4 million copies in the United States and was certified four times Platinum by the RIAA. It sold eight million copies worldwide, becoming the sixth biggest-selling album by a female artist and the second biggest-selling album by a female R&B artist. 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 the third single, "Diary", entered the top ten. The fourth single, "Karma", was less successful on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 20. "If I Ain't Got You" became the first single by a female artist to remain on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for over a year.
Keys won Best R&B Video for "If I Ain't Got You" at the 2004 (11 years ago) MTV Video Music Awards; she performed the song and "Higher Ground" with Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder. Later that year, Keys released her novel Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics, a collection of unreleased poems from her journals and lyrics. The title derived from one of her poems, "Love and Chains" from the line: "I don't mind drinking my tears for water." She said the title is the foundation of her writing because "everything I have ever written has stemmed from my tears of joy, of pain, of sorrow, of depression, even of question". The book sold over $500,000 and Keys made The New York Times bestseller list in 2005 (10 years ago). The following year, she won a second consecutive award for Best R&B Video at the MTV Video Music Awards for the video "Karma". Keys performed "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 (55 years ago) at the 2005 (10 years ago) Grammy Awards. 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 (4 walls).
Keys performed and taped her installment of the MTV Unplugged series in Jul. 2005 (10 years ago) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During this session, Keys added new arrangements to her original songs and performed a few choice covers. The session was released on CD and DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) in Oct. 2005 (10 years ago). 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. The album sold one million copies in the United States, where it was certified Platinum by the RIAA, and two million copies worldwide. The debut of Keys' Unplugged was the highest for an MTV Unplugged album since Nirvana's 1994 (21 years ago) MTV Unplugged in New York and the first Unplugged by a female artist to debut at number one. The album's first single, "Unbreakable", peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number four on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. It remained at number one on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay for 11 weeks.
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.
2006–2008: movie debut and As I AmIn 2006 (9 years ago), Keys won three NAACP image (wallpaper) Awards, including Outstanding Female Artist and Outstanding Song for "Unbreakable". She also received the Starlight Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In Oct. 2006 (9 years ago), she played the voice of Mommy Martian in the "Mission to Mars" episode of the children's TV series The Backyardigans, in which she sang an original song, "Almost Everything Is Boinga Here". That same year, Keys nearly suffered a 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 movie debut in early 2007 (8 years ago) in the crime movie Smokin' Aces, co-starring as an assassin named Georgia Sykes opposite Ben Affleck (7 walls) 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 (13 years ago) novel of the same name, where she co-starred alongside Scarlett Johansson (60 walls) and Chris Evans. She also guest starred as herself in the "One Man Is an Island" episode of the drama series Cane.
Keys released her third studio album, As I Am, in Nov. 2007; it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 742,000 copies in its first week. It gained Keys her largest first week sales of her career and became her fourth consecutive number one album, tying her with Britney Spears (80 walls) for the most consecutive number-one debuts on the Billboard 200 by a female artist. The week became the second largest sales week of 2007 (8 years ago) and the largest sales week for a female solo artist since singer Norah Jones' album Feels like Home in 2004 (11 years ago). The album has sold nearly four million copies in the United States and has been certified three times Platinum by the RIAA. It has sold nearly six million copies worldwide. Keys received five nominations for As I Am at the 2008 (7 years ago) American Music Award and ultimately won two. The album's lead single, "No One", peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, becoming Keys' third and fifth number-one single on each chart, respectively. The album's second single, "Like You'll Never See Me Again", was released in late 2007 (8 years ago) and peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The album's third single, "Teenage Love Affair", peaked at number three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. She released the fourth single, "Superwoman", which peaked at number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 12 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
"No One" earned Keys the awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 2008 (7 years ago) Grammy Awards. Keys opened the ceremony singing Frank Sinatra's 1950 (65 years ago) song "Learnin' the Blues" as a "duet" with archival footage of Sinatra in video and "No One" with John Mayer later in the show. Keys also won Best Female R&B Artist during the show. She starred in "Fresh Takes", a commercial micro-series created by Dove Go Fresh, which premiered during The Hills on MTV from Mar. to Apr. 2008 (7 years ago). The premiere celebrated the launch of new Dove Go Fresh. She also signed a deal as spokesperson with Glacéau's VitaminWater to endorse the product, and was in an American Express commercial for the "Are you a Cardmember?" campaign. Keys, along with The White Stripes' guitarist and lead vocalist Jack White, recorded a theme song to Quantum of Solace (4 walls), the first duet in Bond soundtrack history. In 2008 (7 years ago), Keys was ranked in at number 80 the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists. She also starred in The Secret Life of Bees, a movie adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's acclaimed 2003 (12 years ago) bestseller novel of the same name alongside Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah, released in Oct. 2008 (7 years ago) via Fox Searchlight. Her role earned her a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion picture (wallpaper) at the NAACP image (wallpaper) Awards. She also received three nominations at the 2009 (6 years ago) Grammy Awards and won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Superwoman".
In an interview with Blender magazine, Keys allegedly said "'Gangsta rap' was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other, 'gangsta rap' didn't exist" and went on to say that it was created by "the government". The magazine also claimed she said that Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were "essentially assassinated, their beefs stoked by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing". Keys later wrote a statement clarifying the issues and saying her words were misinterpreted. Later that year, Keys was criticized by anti-smoking campaigners after billboard posters for her forthcoming concerts in Indonesia featured a logo for the A Mild cigarette brand sponsored by tobacco firm Philip Morris. She apologized after discovering that the concert was sponsored by the firm and asked for "corrective actions". In response, the company withdrew its sponsorship. Keys also was involved in an extramarital affair with rapper/producer Swizz Beats who was married to wife Mashonda Tifrere at the time for four years.
2009–present: Upcoming projectsKeys and manager Jeff Robinson signed a movie production deal to develop live-action and animated projects with Disney. Their first movie will be a remake of the 1958 (57 years ago) comedy Bell, Book and Candle and will star Keys as a witch who casts a love spell to lure a rival's fiancé. Keys and Robinson also formed a TV production company called Big Pita. Keys and Robinson will develop live-action and animated projects from their company, Big Pita and Little Pita, with Keys as producer, thespian, banner spearheading soundtrack and music supervision.
Keys is expected to play a 1940 (75 years ago) biracial piano child prodigy, Philippa Schuyler, in an upcoming movie entitled Compositions in Black and White. It is based on a 1995 (20 years ago) biographical book of the same name by Kathryn Talalay. "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 (24 walls) hoped to start shooting in early 2008 (7 years ago), but has not been filmed to date. "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."
Keys collaborated with record producer Swizz Beatz to write and produce "Million Dollar Bill" for Whitney Houston's seventh studio album, I Look to You. It was reported that Keys approached Clive Davis for permission to submit a song for the album. She also collaborated with Jay-Z on "Empire State of Mind", a track off his upcoming album, The Blueprint 3. Keys will release her fourth studio album in late 2009 (6 years ago). As part of the promotional drive for the album, she will be performing at the Cayman Island Jazz Festival on dec. 5, the final night of the three day festival which will be broadcast on Black Entertainment TV (BET). In Jun. 2009 (6 years ago), the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers honored Keys with the Golden Note Award, an award given to artists "who have achieved extraordinary career milestones".
PhilanthropyKeys is the co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organization 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 (10 years ago). 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 Apr. 2008 (7 years ago).
Keys has also donated to Frum tha Ground Up, a non-profit organization 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. In 2005 (10 years ago), 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. In Jul. 2007 (8 years ago), Keys and Keith Urban performed The Rolling Stones' 1969 (46 years ago) song "Gimme Shelter" at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey at the American leg of the Live Earth concerts.
Keys performed Donny Hathaway's 1973 (42 years ago) song "Someday We'll All Be Free" at the America: A Tribute to Heroes televised benefit concert following the sep. 11 attacks. She participated in the Nobel Peace Prize Concert which took place at the Oslo Spektrum in Oslo, Norway, on dec. 11, 2007 (8 years ago), along with other various artists. She recorded a theme song for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. She joined Joss Stone (13 walls) and Jay-Z on the effort, which served as a theme song for Obama's campaign. For her work, Keys was honored at the 2009 (6 years ago) BET Awards with the Humanitarian Award.
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