Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys

"What does it mean to be the proprietor of your destiny?"


Perhaps the better question is, What R&B singer-songwriter opens her bio with a word like "proprietor"? Clearly Alicia Keys.

Once known primarily in R&B and hip-hop circles as the singer influenced by both Biggie and Beethoven, Keys has developed into a self-described "singer, songwriter, pianist extraordinaire, producer, author, news correspondent, award winner, philanthropist and actress." Since her 2001 debut album, she has been a constant chart- and headline-topper, selling over 30 million records worldwide and winning 12 Grammys. In 2005 she released a collection of poetry and lyrics, Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems & Lyrics. In 2007 she made her big-screen debut in the action movie Smokin' Aces and the not-so-action The Nanny Diaries.


Since 2002 she has played an active role in Keep A Child Alive (KCA), a nonprofit organization "dedicated to providing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, care and support services to children and families whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India by directly engaging the global public in the fight against AIDS." She is also "ambassador and co-host and musical director" of Black Ball, the annual benefit/fundraiser for KCA. With such a broad and acclaimed resume, it is no surprise her biography reads like an American Dream narrative.

The native New Yorker was born on Jan. 25, 1981 to a Scottish, Irish and Italian mother and African-American father. Keys' parents separated when she was 2, and she was raised primarily by her mother. She demonstrated musical talent at an early age, and she began actively performing as a teenager. By R&B standards, her influences included the familiar, such as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. However, she also looked to sophisticated jazzers like Nina Simone and Fats Waller, trailblazing prima donna Leontyne Price, proto-minimalist Erik Satie, and "urban lyricists" like 2Pac and Biggie for inspiration. She briefly attended Columbia University before leaving to pursue a career in music. Early on, she signed with Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Recordings, where she contributed a song on 1997's Men In Black Soundtrack. But her career took off after connecting with long-time record executive Clive Davis. Her debut, Songs In A Minor, in 2001, on Davis' J Records, brought her wide acclaim and establishment for the industry veteran's then-nascent label.

Considering her musical influences and career path, it is no surprise that Keys' albums don't fit popular R&B conventions. The production of Keys and her longtime creative partner, Kerry "Krucial" Brothers Jr., on Songs and the 2003 follow-up, The Diary of Alicia Keys, explored modern R&B with some subtle nods to crossover hip-hop and neo-soul. 2007's As I Am introduced more contemporary adult-pop sounds, most notably through the contributions of singer-songwriter Linda Perry. 2009's The Element of Freedom continued that trajectory away from beats and more toward minimal arrangements and introspective themes. ~Dan Nishimoto


Photo Credit: Chris Owyoung/

y isn't the video no one available? :-(


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