The Ascension of Alicia Keys

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    In 2001, when the debut album of Alicia Keys, “Songs In A Minor” featuring the No. 1 hit “Fallin’,” was released, the industry and the public took more than casual notice. The assumption was that a new star had arrived, one who would have staying power.

    That assumption proved to be correct because Keys — singer, pianist, songwriter, producer, actress — is now firmly entrenched along with the other superdivas of the day, including Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé Knowles, Erykah Badu and Rihanna.

    Some wondered why she chose that particular, rather usual title, which certainly was not identifying her as “a minor.”

    Keys (born Alicia Augello Cook) was happy to explain.

    “One of my favorite keys to play in is A minor,” she said. “It’s a very moody key. It is also the first letter of my name. It just represents the songs through my eyes.”

    EVERYTHING she sings, writes and plays has to come from a place deep within.

    “I would hate to make music and have people love me for something that isn’t me,” she said. “If I don’t love it, I will not record it.”

    It’s called truth in art.

    Born in New York City, Keys began playing piano at the early age of 7. She had fallen in love with the piano, noting, “I knew it was me. I was dying to play.”

    Fittingly, her mother (Terri Augello, a single parent), recognizing the gift, enrolled her prodigy daughter in Professional Performing Arts School in New York. There she became proficient at classical piano, a good foundation to build upon as her career progressed.

    Graduating at age 16, she then moved on to Columbia University. However, Keys, who recalls writing her first song at 13, decided to drop out and work full time on her career. It was big chance, but she felt compelled to take it.

    Like most recording artist hopefuls, Keys sent out demo tapes to the major record companies, envisioning wide exposure for her music and, of course, acceptance.

    She needn’t have worried because “Songs In A Minor” was one of the most successful debut albums of all time, selling well not only in the United States but several other countries as well. In the US it sold a very impressive 236,000 copies within a week of its release. That was a definite confidence builder.

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