Biography of Sade the Singer
It’s been a decade since Sade first burst upon the international popular music scene. Her four albums — all of which have placed in the Top Five on Billboard’s Pop and R&B charts — have sold more than eleven million copies in the U.S. and more than 27 million worldwide, while such singles as the Top Five Pop smashes “Smooth Operator” and “The Sweetest Taboo” and Top Ten R&B hits like “Never As Good As the First Time,” “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” “No Ordinary Love,” “Kiss of Life” and the #1 R&B entry “Paradise” have become modern standards.
Sade was born Helen Folesade Adu on January 16th, 1959 in Ibadan, Nigeria, the daughter of a Nigerian teacher and an English nurse. Her parents separated when she was four, and she moved with her mother to London’s North End. In her teens, she worked a succession of part-time jobs from waitress to bike messenger, yet devoted all of her free time to music, inspired by the likes of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye and Al Green. Subsequently, Sade studied fashion design at St. Martin’s College in London, and even saw some of her work shown in New York in conjunction with Spandau Ballet’s first U.S. appearance. But her musical passions quickly overtook her budding fashion and modeling career, and soon Sade was performing as one of three vocalists in a promising jazz-funk collective known as
Early in 1984, Sade reemerged as lead singer and principal songwriter of the group bearing her name, accompanied by her former Pride cohorts Stuart Matthewman (sax and guitar), Andrew Hale (keyboards) and Paul Spencer Denman (bass). Their instrumental and compositional talents brought additional form and color to Sade’s words and melodies, providing a solid base for her natural vocal charisma. The team would continue to play and write together for the next decade. The public got its first taste of Sade’s singular style with the soulful 1984 debut single “Your Love Is King,” which quickly went Top 10 in the U.K. and Europe, and propelled her first album, Diamond Life, released the following year, to the top of the charts in Britain and America. Sade won a Grammy for Best New Artist, her debut spending over 80 weeks on the Billboard album charts.
Diamond Life, which The New York Times’ Stephen Holden called “the year’s most impressive debut album,” was honored with the British Phonographic Institute’s 1985 Best Album award, while Sade took home a Grammy as Best New Artist. The album — featuring “Your Love Is King” along with the Top Five smash “Smooth Operator” and the followup hit “Hang On to Your Love” — spent an amazing 81 weeks on Billboard’s album charts, and remains the all-time best-selling debut by a British female singer. Soon after, Sade made her film debut in Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners, performing the song “Killer Blow,” which she co-wrote.
Sade’s 1985 follow-up, “Promise” quickly reached No. 1 on the U.S. Pop and R&B charts, and containing the Top Five hit “The Sweetest Taboo” as well as “Never As Good As the First Time,” “Jezebel” and “Is It A Crime”. The album further established her sensitively sultry vocal approach and seamless musical depth, maintaining and expanding its predecessor’s soulful sound and lyrical considerations of love, life and loss.
Promise’s success further established Sade, not particularly willingly, as a much sought- after media figure. As a result, she took a much needed sabbatical to escape from media attention, relocating to Madrid. The singer, who rarely does interviews and is seldom spotted in public when she’s not actually performing, staunchly resists “the myth that I’m a shy, reclusive diva. I’m a diva, of course. But I’m not shy or reclusive. I just spend my time with people rather than journalists.”
Sade returned to recording in 1988, emerging from her self-imposed exile with Stronger Than Pride, the first Sade album to be completely produced and arranged by the vocalist and her band. The album — featuring songs like “Paradise”, “Nothing Can Come Between Us” and “Love Is Stronger Than Pride” — demonstrated the ongoing vitality of Sade’s timeless approach in the face of ever-shifting pop fads, and its commercial success demonstrated that the singer’s popularity remained as strong as ever.
Sade spent most of 1988 on a huge world tour, playing to packed houses in Europe, Australia and Japan. and embarking on her first full-scale arena tour of North America. Upon returning from the road, Sade bought and virtually rebuilt an old house in London. Here she would construct a self-contained recording studio where the themes and directions of her fourth album, Love Deluxe would be developed.
In November 1992, after a four year hiatus, Sade released Love Deluxe. The album stayed on the Billboard charts for 90 weeks and spawned the hit “No Ordinary Love,” which was featured on the Indecent Proposal soundtrack. With tracks such as “Kiss of Life,” “Like A Tattoo,” “Cherish The Day” and “Pearls,” Love Deluxe garnered a four-star review in Us magazine. The album was praised for it’s “spare polyrhythmic flow, and the forthright smarts of Sade’s songwriting. Sade addressed such topics as unemployment and the widespread fear of AIDS. “Love Deluxe” was followed by another highly successful touring of the U.S., Europe and Japan.
The Best of Sade
In 1994 the most memorable moments of Sade’s first decade of stardom were brought together in one sleek, seamless package: a comprehensive portrait of a one-of-a-kind artist who remains one of popular music’s most treasured voices. This new collection entitled “The Best Of Sade”, collected sixteen of the singer/songwriter’s greatest performances, drawn from her four multi-platinum Epic releases. Also included was Sade’s impassioned reading of Percy Mayfield’s torchy R&B classic “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” originally included on the soundtrack to the film Philadelphia. Simultaneous with the compilation disc’s release is Sade Live, a 90-minute, 17-song home video of a 1993 Sade concert that captures the singer and her band at their live best. In 1997 the singer was arrested in Jamaica following a traffic dispute with local police and fled the country, threatened with arrest if she ever returned. To date, Sade has sold over 27 million albums worldwide.
Sade is divorced, the mother of one daughter, Ila and her favorite musical instrument is the cello, although she admits to not being able to play it very well.