On Jan. 25, 2021, singer-songwriter Alicia Keys has a major milestone to celebrate: her 40th birthday! In honor of her big day, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the Grammy winner’s life and career in photos! Keep reading to take a walk down memory lane…
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Alicia Augello was born on Jan. 25, 1981, to Teresa Augello and Craig Cook in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. She took an interest in music at a young age, developing her singing and instrument talents listening to the records of iconic jazz artists like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. She’s seen here early in her career, circa 2001.
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Impressive! At 12, Alicia Keys penned her first song, which was inspired by her late grandfather and the 1993 legal drama “Philadelphia.” She’s seen here early in her career performing at a showcase at the Roxy in Los Angeles in May 2001.
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In 1994, Alicia Keys — who was just 13 at the time — met manager Jeff Robinson (pictured) through his brother’s youth group, Teens in Motion. After hearing her sing, he was convinced she could make it in the music industry. The pair are seen here at the release party for Alicia’s album “As I Am” in New York City in November 2007.
While she signed her first recording contract with Columbia Records at 16, Alicia Keys eventually left the label due to creative differences. In 1998, she inked a deal with the legendary Clive Davis (pictured) at Arista Records. “I’ll never forget meeting Clive,” Alicia recalled in the documentary “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives.” She continued, “I remember him being really appreciative and celebratory of the fact that I was my own artist. And I remember feeling so inspired.” Alicia and Clive are seen here at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City in January 2002.
On March 28, 2001, Alicia Keys released her first single, “Fallin,” off her debut studio album, “Songs in A Minor.” The track took home three Grammy Awards in 2002: song of the year, best R&B song and best female R&B vocal performance. She took home two more accolades that night: best R&B album for “Songs in A Minor” and best new artist.
Unstoppable! At the 33rd Annual NAACP Image Awards in February 2002, Alicia Keys won big. She took home accolades for outstanding album for “Songs in A Minor,” outstanding song for “A Woman’s Worth” and outstanding new artist.
In 2003, Alicia Keys co-founded the nonprofit organization Keep a Child Alive, which focuses on providing services including healthcare to communities in India and Africa impacted by HIV/AIDS. She’s seen here at The Pusher’s Ball Benefit in support of Keep a Child Alive in December 2004.
Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, philanthropist… and published author?! In November 2004, Alicia Keys released “Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics,” a series of unreleased lyrics and poems she’d written. In addition to appearing on The New York Times Best Sellers list, the book also earned a reported $500,000 profit.
Alicia Keys’ second studio album, 2003’s “The Diary of Alicia Keys,” was also met with widespread critical acclaim. In addition to selling 8 million copies globally, the album earned 2005 Grammy Awards for best R&B album, best R&B song for “You Don’t Know My Name” and best female R&B vocal performance for “If I Ain’t Got You.” For her collaboration with Usher on “My Boo,” Alicia also took home the award for best R&B performance by a duo or group.
Is there anything she can’t do? Alicia Keys is seen here at the Los Angeles premiere of the 2007 movie “Smokin’ Aces,” which marked her movie debut. The thriller featured a star-studded cast that included Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Taraji P. Henson and Chris Pine. “Smokin’ Aces” earned $57.3 million on a $17 million budget.
A first time for everything! 2007 also marked the year in which Alicia Keys attended fashion’s biggest night — the Met Gala. She looked beautiful in this strapless champagne gown with delicate embellishments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s “Poiret: King of Fashion”-themed event that year.
In November 2007, Alicia Keys celebrated the release of her third studio album, “As I Am,” which included singles “Like You’ll Never See Me Again,” “Teenage Love Affair” and “Superwoman.” As to be expected, the album was met with critical praise — in addition to debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and being four-times platinum certified by the RIAA, “As I Am” earned Grammys for best female R&B vocal performance and best R&B song for “No One.”
In 2008, Alicia Keys split from longtime partner and musical collaborator Kerry Brothers Jr. The couple, who first met when Alicia was a teenager in Harlem, dated for more than a decade. She’d find love once again, however…
In 2008, Alicia Keys began dating Swizz Beatz, whom she first met as a teenager. The couple, seen here at the 2010 Gotham Magazine Annual Gala, welcomed their first child, son Egypt, that same year. They welcomed their second son, Genesis, in 2014.
In October 2009, Alicia Keys shot the video for “Empire State of Mind” — her global hit song with rapper JAY-Z — a few weeks before its release. The track, which has become an anthem for New York City, won two Grammys and topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five weeks.
And the chart-topping albums keep on coming! In December 2009, Alicia Keys released her fourth studio album, “The Element of Freedom,” which included singles like “Doesn’t Mean Anything,” “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart,” “Put It in a Love Song” and “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready).” The album sold more than 4 million copies globally and was certified platinum within just a month of its debut. Alicia’s seen here performing at the album’s release party in London that same year.
In 2012, Alicia Keys released her fifth studio album, “Girl on Fire,” which debuted in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200. The album, which included singles “Brand New Me,” “New Day” and the titular track, earned her the 2014 Grammy Award for best R&B album, making her the winningest artist in that category.
I want you! In 2016, Alicia Keys joined season 11 of NBC’s “The Voice” as a coach alongside Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus and Blake Shelton. She went on to coach again on seasons 12 and 14 of the hit reality singing competition show.
In 2016, not only did Alicia Keys debut as a coach on “The Voice” — she released yet another album! “Here,” Alicia’s sixth studio album, debuted in November that year and featured the two singles “In Common” and “Blended Family (What You Do for Love).” It wasn’t as commercially successful as previous efforts, selling just 130,000 copies globally within six months of its release. She’s seen here at an album signing at Amoeba Music in Los Angeles in November 2016.
Alicia Keys hosted the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019. She’s seen here on stage alongside former first lady Michelle Obama.
How gorgeous are they? In 2019, Alicia Keys and husband Swizz Beatz attended the Met Gala themed “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” She donned a stunning hooded seafoam green gown by Carolina Herrera. From the delicate train to its plunging neckline, the singer-songwriter was an absolute vision.
Sing! Alicia Keys is seen performing alongside Miguel in New York City in 2019. The pair performed their single “Show Me Love” off her seventh studio album, “Alicia.”
In December 2019, Alicia Keys received the American Express Impact Award at the 14th Annual Billboard Women in Music event. She was honored for her work with her nonprofit organization, She is the Music — which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization increasing the number of womxn working in music” — which she founded in 2018. “We’re inspired by women who break down these boundaries, we’re inspired by each other,” said Alicia upon accepting the honor.
In December 2019, Alicia pitched in as a guest host on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” where she was paid a special visit by fellow best new artist Grammy winner Billie Eilish. The duo, who adorably fangirled over each other, are seen here performing Billie’s breakout track “Ocean Eyes.”
Round two! Alicia Keys once again hosted the Grammys in 2020. She’s seen here speaking on stage during music’s biggest night.
At the 2020 Grammy Awards, Alicia Keys not only took the stage as a host but as a performer too! Accompanied by singer-songwriter Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, she performed her track “Underdog” off her seventh studio album, “Alicia,” which she released a few months later.
Alicia (seen here at the 2020 Grammys) released two big projects in 2020: a book and another album. In March 2020, Alicia published “More Myself: A Journey.” While chatting with late night host Jimmy Kimmel in 2019, she explained the inspiration behind it: “I’m definitely looking and I’ve been on a journey to discover more of who I am and how to be more authentically who I am without kind of worrying about what other people think.” In May 2020, she released the album “Alicia,” which was recognized for its return to her signature R&B ballads and praised for its candid exploration of love and sociopolitical subjects.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Alicia Keys was one of the stars who participated in at-home concerts and relief efforts. In April 2020, she performed during “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort Special,” a fundraiser to help communities of color during the trying time. The New York City native performed her hit track “Empire State of Mind.”
In October 2020 ahead of the presidential election, Alicia Keys spoke to a crowd at a campaign rally in Phoenix before introducing future Vice President Kamala Harris. “What I want to give the energy to people is about our potential, our possibility, about our power,” the singer-songwriter said in a campaign trail video. “A lot of what I’m thinking about and talking about is, like, we’re the bosses of these candidates, which is a hundred percent true. We hire them! We are allowed to feel the joy in all the rights that have been fought for so many years.”
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