helen folasade adu was born in oyo, nigeria on 16 january 1959. her father, adebisi adu was an economics profess and her mother, anne hayes, was a nurse. the two met and fell in love in london, england. once married, the two began to start a family, with the birth of their son, banji. after moving to ibadan, their daughter, helen, was born. the victim of racism, a bi-racial helen was dubbed sade by nigerian neighbors who refused to call her by her first name. when sade was just four, her parents separated and both sade and banji accompanied their mother back to her native england. after a short stint with anne's parents, in essex, the three moved to holland-on-sea and anne remarried. once again, sade and her brother became easy targets in a neighborhood that did not have many residents of african heritage, let alone of mixed heritage. in spite of the childhood taunts, however, sade managed to enjoy a happy childhood, seeking solace in dance and the music of divas such as aretha franklin, nina simone and billie holiday.
during adolescence, sade developed a passion for fashiona fact that would later become apparent to an entire generation of mtv viewersresulting in her pursuing course work at st. martin's college. working her way through school as a bicycle messanger and waitress, sade eventually earned her degree and launched a men's clothing line with one of her peers. though the duo enjoyed some success designing clothes for up-and-coming artists, such as spandau ballet, sade became disillusioned with the commercialism and instability of the fashion industry and eventually gave it up. in the wake of her fashion venture, sade took up modeling and appeared on several magazine covers before deciding that, too, was not for her.
sade's introduction to music came in 1980, when she auditioned for a latin ensemble called arriva. though her tenure with the group was short-lived, a collaboration with a fellow band member produced "smooth operator" a song that would figure prominently in the young singer's career. a year after her arriva audition, sade found herself auditioning for another group called pride. though she initially failed the auditon, she later accepted an invitation to join when the group found that they had no candidate who was more qualified. beginning her association with the group as a background vocalist, it wasn't long before sade was collaborating with saxophonist stweart matthewman and wowing crowds with her captivating performances as the band's frontwoman. after a year without securring a recording contract, pride disbanded leaving sade, once again, without a band. she did, however, score a manager in lee barrett, who had previously managed pride.
in 1983, epic records expressed interest in sade. in an inspired move to bring along her long-time collaborators, sade convinced epic that sade was more than merely her name, but also the name of the group including her, stewart matthewman, andrew hale and paul deman. though the public, at large, would be unaware that sade was anything more than one woman throughout their career, the tactic did succeed in obtaining a contract for the entire band. the group's first album, diamond life, was released in europe in 1984. originally slated to never be released in the united states, the album's european success eventually pursuaded label executives to give it a go in the states, with startling results. by the time the album was released in the u.s., it was already on it's second single, "smooth operator", and american response could not have been more positive. in the midst of the pop-laden 80s, sade was a rare blend of actual talent and video-friendly imaging, causing diamond life to spend a phenomenal eighty-one weeks on the charts. accepting the title of 1985's best new artist at the grammy awards and best album at the phonographic institute with sophisticated elegance, sade was dubbed by the media "the first lady of cool".
sade spent that year promoting diamond life, both in europe and abroad, while simultaneously preparting their second offering, promise. recorded in both london and the south of france, sade's sophomore release delivered on the unspoken promise to consistently maintain a level of quality that, in the 1980s, was perhaps matched only by annie lennox and dave stewart's eurythmics. though cuts like "the sweetest taboo" and "never as good as the first time" found their way into the chart's top ten, it was "is it a crime" and "jezebel" that earned themselves a secure place in the hearts of die-hard sade fans who delight in the maturity, simplicity and beauty. eight months of touring accompanied the release of promise, but that didn't precule sade from pursuing other endeavors, such as performing at a myriad of benefit concerts. 1985 also found sade making a cameo in julien temple's musical film absolute beginners; sade performed the song "killer blow", which appeared on the album's soundtrack, but has not made its way on to any of her releases.
though sade may have been sitting on top of the world, with two successful albums under her belt and a devoted following, fame never comes without a price, especially for a camera-friendly diva who happens to share her homeland with the world's most agressive tabloid journalists. beautiful and reluctant to relinquish her privacy, sade was a perfect target for a press who earn their living trading in sleaze. in order to spend her hiatus between albums in relative peace, sade moved to spain. sade dismisses accusations that she's a 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." to that end, sade rarely grants interviews. instead, she spent the time that other artist would have spent pandering to a fickle media getting to know spanish documentary filmmaker, carlos scola. the two fell in love and, for a time, sade adu had her music, her privacy and the love of a good man.
in 1988, sade released their first entirely self-produced album, stronger than pride. again, the group hit the top ten with "nothing can come between us" and the rest of the year was spent touring in support of the new album. upon the conclusion of their first stint headlining a stadium tour, sade moved to madrid and she and scola were married on 11 october 1989. the marriage, however, did not last longer and sade returned to london, where she bought and restored a home, complete with a recording studio. it was here that adu and her fellow band members would work on what would be their fourth studio album, love deluxe. released in november of 1992, love deluxe became an instant hit. songs like "cherish the day", "i couldn't love you more" and "pearls" were classic sade, dressed up for the 90s. it was "ordinary love", however, that ruled the charts for months. included in the indecent proposal soundtrack and accompanied by a captivating video that depicted sade as a love-struck mermaid, "ordinary love" lives on as one of the most memorable songs of the decade. love deluxe's smooth blend of intelligent lyrics and intoxicating grooves, also made it one of the 90s most popular albums for establishing a romantic mood, resulting in sales of over four million copies in the united states alone.
exactly two years later, the best of sade was released, acheiving similar sales success. by this time, the somewhat reclusive diva had retreated to ocho rios, jamaica, where she lived with boyfriend and producer, bob morgan. the two celebrated the birth of their daughter, ila, on 21 july 1996. in 1997, sade returned to england to tour on the strength of her four studio albums, which have sold some thirty million copies worldwide. rumors also had it that sade has entered the studio to record a new album, a fact which made her fans in a quiet frenzy. fans would have to wait three more years before the release of lover's rock a collection of introspective and meaningful songs which benefit from the band's eight-year hiatus from performing as sade without diverging too far from the formula that has earned them one of the most dedicated following's in the music industry.
emerging in the 1980s from a sea of plastic pop pin-up girls, sade blended heretofore disparate styles of music with grace, poise and beauty, quickly identifying her as a diva in the first degree. possessing a cool elegance and shrouded in mystery, she has managed to remain in the public's conscioussness while only producing an album every several years. sensual without having to pander to the prurient appetite of the public, the possessor of a slow-burning talent and intelligent without question, the artist known as sade has earned herself a place among divas many years her senior.