Musician. Born Alicia Augello Cook on January 25, 1981, in New York, New York. Blending pop, gospel, R&B and soul, Keys burst onto the music scene in 2001 with her debut album Songs in A Minor.
Keys was raised by her mother, Nikki Augello, a part-time actress and paralegal. Keys began piano lessons at age 7 and Augello’s dogged insistence that her daughter stick with the instrument led Keys to attend Manhattan’s prestigious Professional Performance Arts School where she majored in choir. She excelled academically and was allowed to graduate at the age of 16. Keys had already attracted the attention of record company executives during her high school years, and after what amounted to a bidding war for her talents, she signed with Arista Records in 1998.
While she was accepted to Columbia University on a full scholarship, after a four-week stint at the school, Keys departed to devote herself fully to her music.
In 1999, Clive Davis, the head of Arista Records, left the company to start J Records. Keys decided to follow Davis, who had engineered the careers of such soul luminaries as Aretha Franklin, to his new label. Unlike many of her pop-music contemporaries, the precocious Keys not only sings, but writes and produces her own music. At J Records, Keys found the freedom to complete her debut effort, which included material she had started work on years prior.
Davis carefully orchestrated a media blitz before the release of the album, including a series of television and small venue appearances. When it was finally released, Songs in A Minor went platinum five times over. Critics roundly praised the album not only for its musical polish, but also for its lyric maturity.
At the 2002 Grammy Awards, Keys took home awards for Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. Keys fronted for fellow R&B sensation Maxwell in 2001. Her album “Diary” won her four Grammys in 2005.