Alicia Keys (born Alicia Augello Cook on January 25, 1981 in New York, New York) is an American R&B and soul singer, songwriter, record producer, and pianist.
Alicia Cook was born to a Puerto Rican-Irish-Italian mother, Terri Augello, and a Jamaican father, Craig Cook, and was raised in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York City. Her maternal grandmother is Puerto Rican. Keys began playing piano when she was seven. She learned classical music by playing composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin, who was her favorite composer. She wrote her first song "Butterflyz" at the age of fourteen; the song can be found on her debut album. Keys' mother was the one who most supported her during the time she was developing her talents.
Keys graduated as valedictorian from the Professional Performing Arts School, a public high school in Manhattan at the age of sixteen. She briefly attended Columbia University on a scholarship before devoting herself to a full-time musical career. Following her mentor Clive Davis to his newly-formed J Records label, she released her debut album Songs in A Minor in 2001, the title being a reference to both her classical aspirations and to the fact that she wrote most of the songs at a very young age.
Songs in A Minor was a commercially successful album when it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and its first single "Fallin'" was a huge hit as well, gaining airplay on many different radio formats and spending six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Keys also gained visibility with her resolute performance of Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free" at the America: A Tribute to Heroes televised benefit concert following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A subsequent single, "A Woman's Worth", made the Top 10 as well. With the album she won five Grammy Awards in 2002, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for "Fallin'". A 2002 summer concert tour was successful, with the assistance of the lower-rent MC Freak Nasty.
Because she wrote her own songs and played several instruments very well, consumers saw Keys as an original voice at a time when the musical marketplace was flooded with pop bands that were little more than an attractive front for the creative energies of others. As such, she established a large fanbase of devoted fans, making her one of the most popular artists of the early years of the 21st century. Critical reviews were mostly positive. Keys' work had a sound similar to 1970s soul singers such as Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye along with hip hop influences like those apparent in neo soul artists such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and D'Angelo. However some critics went further by accusing her of outright plagiarism, especially in the case of her single "Fallin'", which interpolates James Brown's "It's A Man's World" right down to the string arrangement.
In late 2003, Keys released her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, which also debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 610,000 copies its first week. "You Don't Know My Name" and the soulful "If I Ain't Got You" both became Top 5 hit singles, with the later "Karma" also receiving considerable attention.
At the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards Keys led Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder in a stomping rave-up of Wonder's "Higher Ground". At the 2005 Grammy Awards, she gave a powerful performance of the album's second single, "If I Ain't Got You", and then joined Jamie Foxx and Quincy Jones in a stirring rendition of the Hoagy Carmichael song made famous by the late Ray Charles, "Georgia On My Mind". That night she went home with four Grammy Awards (Best R&B Album for The Diary of Alicia Keys; Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "If I Ain't Got You"; Best R&B Song for "You Don't Know My Name"; and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "My Boo" with Usher).
Keys became an Honorary Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. on September 24, 2004.
Besides being a musician, she is a soon-to-be actress; she is going to play the piano wunderkind Philippa Schuyler in an upcoming movie entitled Composition in Black and White.
Keys is dating producer Kerry "Crucial" Brothers.