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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 07:34 GMT
Alicia's keys to success
US R&B singer-songwriter and pianist Alicia Keys has won four Grammy Awards to go with the five she picked up in 2002.

Alicia Keys at the Grammys
Alicia Keys' Grammys included best R&B album and best R&B song
Mixing pop star looks, hip-hop attitude, classical training and old-school soul, 24-year-old Alicia Keys has slotted into a highly successful niche.

With two number one US albums, her slick music has enough edge to attract a young urban crowd but also a classic eloquence and emotion that appeals to fans of timeless torch songs.

Perhaps that range is not surprising for someone who names Beethoven, Oscar Peterson, Stevie Wonder and Jay-Z among her inspirations.

Keys is a musical prodigy who was born in Manhattan, where hip-hop was the music most commonly heard on the street corners.

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.

"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."

Alicia Keys in 2001
Her debut album has sold 10 million copies around the world
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.

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

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

There, she continued writing, producing and recording the debut she began aged 14.

Songs in A Minor topped the American charts with 235,000 copies sold in its first week and has gone on to sell 10 million worldwide.

She says she has not let the success go to her head and still has a "very low-key life". So low-key that she still fiercely guards her private life while others parade theirs in the press.

Alicia Keys performs God Bless America before the start of Super Bowl
Alicia Keys sung God Bless America before this year's Super Bowl
That does not mean she shies away from the pop scene - a US arena tour with Beyonce Knowles and Missy Elliott saw her hold her own as one of the queens of urban pop.

Far from being a difficult second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys garnered sales, rave reviews and awards to rival those of her debut.

Her achievements at this year's Grammys included best R&B album, best R&B song, best female R&B vocal performance and best R&B vocal performance by a duo or group for her duet with Usher.

If that is not enough, there has been talk of movie roles and books of her poetry and lyrics.

Just another day in the life of one of America's most prodigious talents.


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