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Alicia Keys Biography: Life and Career of the Singer and Actress

VO: Rebecca Brayton
For the release of her new album, "Girl on Fire," on November 27, 2012, here's our video biography of Alicia Keys. Born January 25th, 1981 in New York City, Alicia Keys turned her childhood interest in music into a superstar career after she impressed music exec Clive Davis. Her 2001 debut, "Songs in A Minor," was an instant hit and showcased Keys' incredible vocals. She quickly earned Grammy nods and more number one albums while expanding her career into acting during the new millennium. Now, she is one of today's best-selling artists. In this video, takes a look at the life and career of Alicia Keys.

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With every song, she has us "fallin'" in love with her. Welcome to, and today we're taking a look at the life and career of Alicia Keys.

Early Musical Interest

Alicia Augello Cook was born January 25th, 1981 in New York City. After learning to play piano as a child and enrolling in music class, Cook graduated as valedictorian of the Professional Performing Arts School at age 16.


With the help of a manager and her future A&R rep, Cook put together a demo and showcase. After landing a deal with Columbia Records in the mid-‘90s, she left her studies at Columbia University to pursue music.

Clive Davis

She made her first recordings with the label under the name Alicia Keys. However, she parted ways with Columbia after only two years. She then reached out to music impresario Clive Davis, who signed her to Arista Records.

Movie Soundtracks

When that company folded, she followed Davis to J Records and made contributions to the “Shaft” and “Dr. Dolittle 2” movie soundtracks in the new millennium.


Keys released her debut, Songs in A Minor, in 2001. The R&B and soul disc debuted at number one on the Billboard Chart and introduced Keys as a vocal powerhouse. It sold almost a quarter million copies in its first week, and went on to sell over 12 million worldwide. On the strength of the number one hit “Fallin,’” and the top ten single “A Woman's Worth,” Keys became the best selling artist of 2001 and only the second solo female act to win five Grammy Awards in one year.

Successful Sophomore Effort

Her follow-up, The Diary of Alicia Keys, did not disappoint. The album sold over half a million copies in the first week, which was the best first-week record of any female artist in 2003. The Grammy-winning album entered the Billboard 200 at number one and eventually sold over eight million copies internationally. It also spawned four top twenty singles, including the top five hits, "You Don't Know My Name" and “If I Ain't Got You.”


Her success continued the next year when she collaborated with Usher on the chart-topping smash “My Boo.”

Quiet Times

In 2005, Keys’ collection of poetry made The New York Times Bestsellers list and she had another number one with the live Unplugged album. 2006 was a mostly quiet year for the singer as she took some time away from the spotlight.


Next up, Keys earned praise for her natural acting ability in the movies “Smokin' Aces” and “The Nanny Diaries.”

Another Number One Album

In 2007, she continued her successful run with As I Am: the record went to number one and sold almost three-quarters of a million copies in the first week alone, and once again she received multiple Grammy nominations for the disc. Its highest charting singles were the top twenty track "Like You'll Never See Me Again” and the number one tune, “No One.”

James Bond

The next year, Keys teamed up with Jack White of The White Stripes for “Another Way to Die,” which was the theme song for the James Bond flick, “Quantum of Solace.” She also starred in the drama, “The Secret Life of Bees.”

Jay-Z and Another Album

In 2009, Keys notched her fourth number one single and another Grammy for her joint effort with Jay-Z: "Empire State of Mind.” Later that year, she kept her hot streak alive by dropping The Element of Freedom. Premiering at the second spot of the Billboard 200, it sold over 400 thousand copies in its first week.


The next few years saw Keys marry hip hop recording artist Swizz Beatz and give birth to their son. She even went behind the camera to direct a film project about women with breast cancer.

“Girl on Fire”

But soon, she was back with another record: Girl on Fire was unveiled in 2012, and upon its release, the title track quickly began receiving widespread airplay.


Alicia Keys is a rare artist who is in a class of her own. With a successful career and a loving family, she is an inspiration to women everywhere and she injects positivity into everything she does. Simply put, "This girl is on fire."

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