Alicia Keys - Biography & Career
Keys was born to an Irish-Italian mother, Terri Augello, and a Jamaican father, Craig Cook, in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, New York, and was raised in poverty in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, also of Manhattan, New York City. In 1985, Keys and a group of other girls won the parts of Rudy Huxtable's sleepover guests in an episode of The Cosby Show (the episode became the only time Keys was credited under her real name). She began playing piano when she was seven, learning classical music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and her favorite Chopin. She wrote her first song "Butterflyz" at the age of fourteen; the song was later recorded for her debut album. Keys' mother and father separated during her early childhood, thus she was raised by her mother during her formative years; her mother was the one who most supported her during the time she was developing her musical talents. The press reported in 2005 that Keys was attempting to reconcile with her father. However, Keys denied this and said her words were misinterpreted.
Keys graduated from the Professional Performing Arts School, a high school in Manhattan, at the age of sixteen. She was accepted to Columbia University but never attended, devoting herself instead to a full-time musical career. Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label, then distributed to Columbia Records. She wrote and recorded a song entitled "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)" which appeared on the soundtrack for the 1997 blockbuster, Men in Black. The song was Keys' first professional recording, it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia Records was ended quickly and Keys later met Clive Davis who signed her to Arista Records, which has since disbanded. Following her mentor Clive Davis to his newly-formed J Records label, she recorded songs "Rock Wit U" and "Rear View Mirror" which featured on the soundtracks to the movies Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) respectively. Keys then released her debut album Songs in A Minor in 2001, the title being a reference to both her classical aspirations and to the fact that she wrote most of the songs at a very young age.