Helen Adu was born in Nigeria to English parents on this day in 1959. You’d know her better as Sade, and we wish her a happy 62nd birthday.
When her parents split up, a young Sade moved to England with her mom, a nurse. While Sade loved music as a kid, listening to a range of artists from Marvin Gaye to Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, she says looks “at music as a consumer rather than a musician,” and is perhaps a bit surprised by her success. She went to college for fashion design and then got into modeling with her singing more as a hobby than career prospect. However, discovered on the stages of London in the early-’80s, Epic Records soon gave her a contract and she assembled a band, also called Sade and put out her debut, Diamond Life, in 1984. A top 10 hit in her UK as well as the U.S. and Canada, her sultry sound won over audiences quickly. Likewise her follow-up a year later, Promise ended up 4X platinum in the States and generated another top 10 single in “The Sweetest Taboo.”
Comparisons to Holiday were made and the New York Times noted that she sounded like a “cross between the rock jazz of Steely Dan and the West Indian-flavored folk pop of Joan Armatrading.” The New Yorker consider her voice “a grainy contralto full of air that betrays a slight ache but no agony.”
She’s been recording ever since, albeit at a slow pace; with her last full album coming out in 2010. Her last new release was a new song she wrote and performed, “Flower of the Universe” for the 2017 movie A Wrinkle in Time. To date, her six studio albums to date have sold a total of about 50 million copies, garnered her a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1986 and eventually seen her honored as a member of the Order of the British Empire.