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Real Life Stories
By: Agatha White-Dowe
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"[I resist] the myth that I'm a shy, reclusive diva. I'm not shy or reclusive. I just spend my time with people rather than journalists." - Sade

She has never done scantily dressed, provocative dancing, nor is she a media junkie —her voice and song writing talents are what makes her stand out from the pretenders. She just wants to write and play music; this Diva is not interested in publicity. Her music leaves you feeling totally chilled out and grooved up. Born Helen Folasade Adu in Ibadan, Nigeria, Sade (pronounced Shar-Day) has one of the most distinctive voices in pop music. Her unique, inimitable style and prominent fame set her apart from the other pop starlets currently in the charts. To say that her music is average pop is not true, it transcends pop—her lyrics are soulful and meaningful and there are inflections of jazz in all her songs. For her, songwriting is an alchemical out-of-body experience, not hard to envision once you listen to her lyrics. Her music lingers in the heart—long after the last musical note recedes.

Sade has had an illustrious two-decade career of music making behind her back. This has established her as an international musical legend. Her reputation as a hit maker has been firmly etched into the public consciousness, thanks to her string of charted hits such as “Sweetest Taboo”, “Your Love is King” and “Smooth Operator” which began their climb up the charts in 1984. She is an accomplished singer–songwriter, record producer, and composer. In a predominantly male-dominated business, Sade holds the reins and is in control of the creative recording process for all her albums. She also demonstrated her savvy business acumen when she negotiated a deal early in her career to get a cut of the sales of her songs as opposed to a big up-front advance.

Born January 16th 1959, daughter of a Nigerian Economics professor (Adebisi Adu) and English nurse mum (Anne), she moved with her mother and brother Banji back to England in Colchester Essex, after her parents divorced in 1963. As a teenager, Sade studied fashion design at St Martins School of Art. She eventually set up shop and opened a small fashion house making men’s clothes in Chalk Farm North West London with her close pal Gioia Mellor. She also took on jobs as a photographic model and bike messenger. Sade loved listening to old Motown records; she loved Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Dionne Warwick, Don Hathaway, Al Green, Billie Halliday and Nina Simone. Her undeniable talent and interest in music led to her fortuitous involvement with a Latin funk group called Arriva as a backup singer. It was with Arriva that she first preformed the UK and US hit “Smooth Operator”. Not long after this success, Sade and some members of the group, guitarist and saxophonist Stuart Mathewman, bassist Paul Denman, and keyboardist Andrew Hale formed a splinter group named Pride. Record company bosses couldn’t wait to land their paws on this talent and she signed a solo deal with Epic Records. This was where she released her debut album Diamond Life in 1986, and it heralded the birth and unparalleled success of one of the most recognisable female singers in UK music industry. Sade simply couldn’t help but be a star.

Sade quickly developed a style of her own and became a favourite among trendy artistic types. Her signature hypnotic, smoky, jazz-infused vocals, with the barest minimum of backing instrumentals, touched the chords of music lovers all over the world, a befitting late-night love anthem. After gaining exposure through several tours and word of mouth, her music soon soared to the top of the charts, cracking both the UK and the tough American music charts. Sade brought with her a level of class and a smooth jazz sound that had never been heard in the ears of pop radio. Her hits including were ubiquitous throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, purring out of radios and lending ambience to countless lounges, restaurants, weddings, and fashionable boutiques.

She emerged into the music video era in 1984 with her debut album, Diamond Life, (a year after Madonna's first record). At a time when many stars believed they needed maximum media exposure to sustain a career, she simply hung back, letting her songs alone define her. She did, however star, in the 1986 movie Absolute Beginners.

Currently residing in rural Gloucestershire in the South West of England with her beautiful 14-year-old daughter Ila Adu (conceived from a past relationship with Jamaican record producer Bob Morgan), new partner Ian Watts (a scientist), and his 18 year-old-son Jack, Sade craves obscurity. Unfortunately, this has led to unwanted press intrusion as is the norm in this modern day of celebrity. In the past, unfounded rumours circulated about this Diva: one that she was a drug addict and two that she was in an abusive relationship. Sade seldom gives media interviews and this gave fodder to the rumour mill. Her friends have nicknamed her Howie after the reclusive American Billionaire Howard Hughes. Her diehard fans gave no credence to the stories and her records still fly off the shelves.

There are a few important achievements that make Sade a true pioneer. In 1985, she won the British Phonographic Institute prize for Best Album, and in so doing, became one of the first black UK solo female artist of her generation to win the prestigious award. This was shortly followed by a Best New Artist Grammy award in 1986, and Best R&B Duo or Group Performance, for No Ordinary Love, in 1994. Since then, her songs have won two more Grammys and a Brit Award. She is also one of the few musicians to grace the cover of Time Magazine.

Music writers around the world love Sade’s name as much as her music. Whenever a critic is trying to describe a pop act with a smooth, laid-back, steamy, sophisticated, vaguely jazzy sound, her name is immediately invoked. Since taking the pop world by storm in the mid-1980s, dozens of bands have tried to copy the restrained style she and her band have pioneered and not one has yet managed to replace Sade as the standard for sultriness. Known for her one-of-a-kind timeless sound, Sade has enjoyed phenomenal success internationally throughout the span of her 25-year career.

This British-Nigerian beauty still remains unearthly strikingly beautiful at the age of 51, and can give any of the newer divas a big run for their money as far as looks, talent, and elegance are concerned. February 2010 saw the re-emergence of Sade with her Soldier of Love album, the group's first album since their multi-platinum 2000 album Lovers Rock. Her little girl Ila sings backup vocals with saxophonist Mathewman’s son Clay on the song “Babyfather”. Not only have we welcomed Sade back with open arms after close to ten years, but Soldier of Love has proven to be a smash globally—it is the only album that Sade has done that is close to R&B. So far, the album has seen a number one worldwide debut in territories including Canada, France, and Switzerland.

Nothing seems impossible to Sade. When it comes to music and making hits, she remains a woman who has inspired and empowered millions through her music and her performances. ds

 

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