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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 06:50 GMT
Alicia has keys to stardom
Keys began musical training at a young age
Singer Alicia Keys, who has swept the board at the Grammy Awards, has become one of the biggest new stars in music. BBC News Online charts her rise.

When Alicia Keys sang at the Scala in London in October 2001, she could have travelled to the King's Cross venue by Tube without being noticed.

Not any more. A lot has happened since then and a more likely scenario would be a blacked out limousine en route to Wembley stadium.

The 21-year-old R&B singer has won five Grammy Awards at the prestigious ceremony in Los Angeles.

She slipped from Beethoven to blues and Gershwin to gospel without dropping a stitch

London Evening Standard

And she has already been in the top 10 in the UK album and single charts.

The New Yorker, who recently topped the US charts with her debut album Songs in A Minor, was nominated in six categories in the Grammys.

Such acclaim would not surprise those who did see her debut concert in London.

Afterwards, London's Evening Standard newspaper said: "She slipped from Beethoven to blues and Gershwin to gospel without dropping a stitch.

"Her influences include Roberta Flack, with whom she shares the ability to tumble through chord sequences most divas don't touch.

"Lauryn Hill just got herself some serious competition."

Keys is a musical prodigy who was born in Manhattan, where hip-hop was the most common music heard from the street corners in her neighbourhood.

But her mother arranged for her to have piano lessons at an early age.

"My mum didn't force me, " Keys told a newspaper.

"I've loved the piano ever since I was young and I begged to learn it.
She has already sung to a British audience

"My mum just helped me stay focused because you can lose focus as you get older, you want to hang out and meet boys and all that.

"So I'm thankful for that support."

Keys is also thankful for a teacher at the Professional Performance Arts School in Manhattan who gave her valuable instruction on her voice.


Aged 16, Alicia's outstanding grades allowed her to finish high school early.

She went straight to Columbia University, but soon left to focus on music full-time.

With her classical musical education, plus her own songwriting talent which she developed in her teens, Keys has been compared with a young Roberta Flack by her record company J Records.

But the firm nearly missed out on the young star.

Sony won a bidding war for her signature in 1998 but she disliked the direction in which they wanted to take her.

Fortunately for me different situations happened in my life that weren't always perfect

Alicia Keys

So she followed record company impressario Clive Davis when he left in 1999 to head a new label J Records, where she found she had more creative freedom.

And she continued writing, producing and recording the debut she had begun aged 14.

Songs in A Minor topped the American charts with 235,000 copies sold in its first week in June.

The single Fallin' followed it to the top of the charts in the US and reached number three in the UK.
Alicia Keys
Keys: Tipped for the top

The long gestation of the album was, she thinks, a blessing because it meant the music could develop in the face of any adversity.

"Fortunately for me different situations happened in my life that weren't always perfect, especially when it came to the release of my album.

"It didn't happen immediately so I had time to really develop my patience and develop my skills and confidence.


"So when the time came there wasn't a lot of pressure.

"In the beginning though when we were doing intimate shows for certain high profile people I did get a bit nervous.

"I'm not a very nervous person normally but those nerves were good for me."

See also:

14 Nov 01 | Music
Alicia Keys is awards favourite
09 Jan 01 | Entertainment
In pictures: American Music Awards
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