Helen Folasade Adu, OBE (Yoruba: Fọláṣadé Adú [fɔ̄láʃādé ādú]; born 16 January 1959), known professionally as Sade Adu or simply Sade (/ʃɑːˈdeɪ/ shah-DAY), is a Nigerian-born English singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, and record producer. With members Paul S. Denman, Andrew Hale, and Stuart Matthewman, she gained worldwide fame as the lead vocalist of the English band Sade. Following a brief stint as a fashion designer of men's clothing and part-time model, Adu began backup singing for the band Pride. Growing attention from record labels led her, along with other fellow band members, to separate from Pride and form the band Sade. Following a record deal with Epic Records the band released their debut album Diamond Life (1984). The album sold over six million copies, becoming one of the top-selling debut recordings of the 1980s, and the best-selling debut ever by a British female vocalist.
Following the release of the band's debut album they went on to release a string of multi-platinum selling albums. Their follow-up Promise was released in 1985 and peaked at number-one in the UK Albums Chart, the US Billboard 200, and went on to sell four million copies in the US. Sade would later go on to make her acting debut in the British film, Absolute Beginners (1986), before the release of the band's albums, Stronger Than Pride (1988) and Love Deluxe (1992). After the release of the fifth album, Lovers Rock (2000), the band embarked on a ten-year hiatus in which Sade raised her daughter. Following the hiatus the band returned with their sixth album, Soldier of Love (2010) which became a commercial success and won a Grammy Award.
Sade's US certified sales so far stand at 23.5 million units according to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) web site and have sold more than 50 million units worldwide to date. The band were ranked at number 50 on VH1's list of the "100 greatest artists of all time". In 2002, Adu was awarded an OBE for services to music, and stated her award was "a great gesture to me and all black women in England". In 2010, The Sunday Times named her the most successful solo British female artist in history. In 2012, Sade was listed at number 30 on VH1's "100 Greatest Women In Music".
Helen Folasade Adu was born on 16 January 1959 in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. Her middle name, Folasade, means "honour confers a crown". Her parents, Adebisi Adu, a Nigerian lecturer in economics of Yoruba background, and Anne Hayes, an English district nurse, met in London, married in 1955 and moved to Nigeria. Her parents separated, however, and Anne Hayes returned to England, taking four-year-old Sade and older brother Banji with her to live with their grandparents near Colchester, Essex. When Sade was 11 years old, she moved to Holland-on-Sea, Essex, to live with her mother. After completing her education at Clacton County High School at age 18 she moved to London and studied fashion design at Saint Martin's School of Art.
1980–84: Beginnings and Diamond Life
After completing a three-year course work in fashion design, and later modeling briefly, Sade began backup singing with British band Pride. During this time she formed a songwriting partnership with Pride's guitarist/saxophonist Stuart Matthewman and together, backed by Pride's rhythm section, they began doing their own sets at Pride gigs. Her solo performances of the song "Smooth Operator" attracted the attention of record companies, and in 1983 Sade and Matthewman split from Pride along with keyboardist Andrew Hale, bassist Paul Denman and drummer Paul Cook to form the band Sade. By the time she performed her first show at London's Heaven nightclub she had become so popular that 1,000 people were turned away at the door. In May 1983, Sade performed their first US show at the Danceteria nightclub in New York City. On 18 October 1983 Sade Adu signed with Epic Records, while the rest of the band signed in 1984.
Following the record deal, the group began recording their debut album, Diamond Life, which took six weeks to record and was recorded entirely at The Power Plant in London. Diamond Life was released on 16 July 1984, reached number two in the UK Album Chart, sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK, and won the Brit Award for Best British Album in 1985. The album was also a hit internationally, reaching number one in several countries and the top ten in the US, where it has sold in excess of 4 million copies. Diamond Life had international sales of over 6 million copies, becoming one of the top-selling debut recordings of the '80s and the best-selling debut ever by a British female vocalist.
"Your Love Is King" was released as the album's lead single on 25 February 1984 and was a success in European territories charting at number-seven in Ireland and number-six on the UK Singles Chart. The song was less successful in the US where it peaked at number 54 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The third single "Smooth Operator" became the most successful song in the US from the album Diamond Life, which was first released on 15 September 1984. The track peaked at number-five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Billboard Hot Black Singles, as well as peaking at number-one on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. In Europe the song fared well peaking at number 19 in the UK and reaching the top twenty in Austria, Switzerland, France and Germany.
1985–2000: Continued success and first hiatus
In late 1985, the band released their second album, Promise, which peaked at number one in both the UK and the US and became the band's first album to reach number one on the US Billboard 200. The album topped the chart in 1986 and spent two weeks at the peak position. Eventually, the album went on to sell four million copies in the region and was certified four times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album spawned two singles "Never as Good as the First Time" and "The Sweetest Taboo," the latter of which was released as the album's lead single and stayed on the US Hot 100 for six months. "The Sweetest Taboo" peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100, number one on the US adult Contemporary chart, and number-three on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. Sade was so popular that some radio stations reinstated the '70s practice of playing album tracks, adding "Is It a Crime" and "Tar Baby" to their playlists. The following year in 1986 the band won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
In 1986, Adu made her acting debut in Absolute Beginners, a film adapted from the Colin MacInnes book of the same name about life in late-1950s London. Sade played the role of Athene Duncannon and lent her vocals to the film's accompanying soundtrack. The film was screened out of competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival and grossed £1.8 million in the UK. Sade's third album, Stronger Than Pride, was released on 3 May 1988, and like Sade's previous album became a commercial success and certified three times platinum in the US. The album was popularized by four singles, most notably the album's second single "Paradise" which peaked at number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, becoming the band's first single to do so.
Love Deluxe was released as the band's fourth studio album on 26 October 1992. The album peaked at number three on the US Billboard 200 and has sold 3.4 million copies in the United States. The album was later certified four times platinum by the RIAA for shipments of four million copies. The album was also commercially successful else where reaching number-one in France, and reaching the top ten in New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. The album went on to be certified gold in the United Kingdom. In November 1994 the group released their first compilation album, The Best of Sade. The album was another top ten hit in both the United Kingdom and the United States, certified platinum and four times platinum, respectively. The compilation album included material from Sade's previous albums as well as a cover version of "Please Send Me Someone to Love" (1950) originally by Percy Mayfield.
2000–10: Lovers Rock and second hiatus
Following an eight-year hiatus the band released their fifth studio album, Lovers Rock, on 13 November 2000 and received positive reviews from music critics. The album reached number 18 on the UK Albums Chart, number-three on the US Billboard 200, and has since been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), having sold 3.9 million copies in the United States by February 2010. On 27 February 2002, the album earned Sade the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album and the lead single "By Your Side" was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Although the single lost out to Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like a Bird", it has been listed as the 48th greatest love song of all time by VH1.
To promote the album Adu and the band embarked on their fifth concert tour entitled Lovers Rock Tour. The tour was announced via the band's website in April 2001. The announcement stated the tour would begin in the summer of 2001 with 30 shows. Initial dates were rescheduled due to extended rehearsal time. The shows sold well, with many stops adding additional shows. In August 2001, the tour was extended by eight weeks due to ticket demand. Deemed by many critics as a comeback tour, it marked the band's first performances since 1994 and lasted until 2011. Although many believed the trek would expand to other countries, this did not come to fruition. With over 40 shows, it became the 13th biggest tour in North America, earning over 26 million.
Following the tour the band released their first live album, Lovers Live on 5 February 2002 by Epic Records. Lovers Live reached number-ten on the US Billboard 200 and number 51 on the UK Albums Chart, the band's first album to miss the top twenty in the UK. The album was certified gold by the RIAA on 7 March 2002, having sold US sales of 562,000 copies, while the DVD was certified platinum on 30 January 2003 for shipping 100,000 copies.
Following the release of Lovers Rock Adu took a ten-year hiatus, during which she raised her daughter and moved to the Caribbean. During this time she made a rare public appearance for an award ceremony that took place in 2002 to accept an Order of the British Empire (OBE) at Buckingham Palace for services to music. In 2002, she appeared on the Red Hot Organization album, Red Hot + Riot, a compilation CD in tribute to the music of fellow Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti. She recorded a remix of her hit single, "By Your Side" for the album and was billed as a co-producer.
2010–present: Soldier of Love
The band's sixth studio album, Soldier of Love, was released worldwide on 8 February 2010 and was the most recent album in ten years to contain new material. Upon release the album received positive reviews and became a success. The album debuted atop the Billboard 200 in the United States with first-week sales of 502,000 copies. Soldier of Love became the band's first album to debut at number-one and the band's second album to peak at number-one on the chart. The album also had the best sales week by a group since Australian band AC/DC released their album, Black Ice and entered the Billboard 200 at number-one in November 2008. Consequently, the band became the act with the longest hiatus between number-one albums, as the band's Promise (1985) and Soldier of Love were separated by 24 years, 10 months and 2 weeks.
The first single and title track, "Soldier of Love", premiered on US radio on 8 December 2009 and was released digitally on 11 January 2010. Subsequent singles, "Babyfather" and "The Moon and the Sky", were played by US urban adult contemporary radio on 13 April and 24 August 2010, respectively. At the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2011, the title track won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, while the song, "Babyfather", was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
In April 2011, the band began their Sade Live tour (also known as the "Once in a Lifetime Tour" or the "Soldier of Love Tour"). The band toured Europe, the Americas, Australia, Asia to promote the band's sixth studio album and their second compilation album, The Ultimate Collection (2011). This trek marked the band's first tour in nearly a decade and ranked 27th in Pollstar's "Top 50 Worldwide Tour (Mid-Year)", earning over 20 million dollars. At the conclusion of 2011, the tour placed tenth on Billboard's annual, "Top 25 Tours", earning over $50 million with 59 shows.
The band is credited as being influential to the musical genre of neo soul and achieved success in the 1980s with songs that featured a sophisti-pop style, incorporating elements of soul, pop, smooth jazz, and quiet storm. The band was part of a new wave of British R&B-oriented artists during the late-1980s and early-1990s that also included artists Soul II Soul, Caron Wheeler, The Brand New Heavies, Simply Red, Jamiroquai, and Lisa Stansfield. AllMusic's Alex Henderson writes that, "Many of the British artists who emerged during that period had a neo-soul outlook and were able to blend influences from different eras". Following the coining of the term "quiet storm" by Smokey Robinson, Sade was credited for helping give the genre a worldwide audience. Adu has a contralto vocal range, that has been described as "husky and restrained" and was compared to jazz singer Billie Holiday.
Sade's work has influenced numerous musical artists. Rapper Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim stated he grew up listening to Sade's soul music and was influenced by her voice and style. Rakim has also referenced Sade's song "Smooth Operator" in his rap song "Paid in Full" (1987). Talib Kweli stated he learned about precision from Sade due to her performance of Love Deluxe in its entirety at Madison Square Garden. Frontman Chino Moreno of the alternative metal band Deftones has cited Love Deluxe as one of his top 13 favorite albums. In an interview with The Quietus, Moreno said, "I've always loved it, it was a big inspiration on me. It's sort of classy, another cocktail and cityscape record." The band also covered the lead single "No Ordinary Love" in collaboration with singer Jonah Matranga for the band's 2005 compilation album, B-Sides & Rarities.
Sade's work has also been recognized by many musical artists. Rapper Missy Elliott cited Sade's performance of "Smooth Operator" as one of her favourites. Hip hop group Souls of Mischief stated they grew up listening to Sade's music. Hip hop group Tanya Morgan also described Sade as one of their favorite artists. Other rappers to recognize Sade include the former rap-duo of Clipse – Malice and Pusha. In reaction to the newly released album Soldier of Love, rapper Kanye West wrote, "This is why i still have a blog. To be a part of moments like this ... new Sade ... How much better this ... than everything else?". Rapper Rick Ross stated in an interview that "People may know my infatuation with Sade. There's never been a bad Sade track. I love all different sides."
American singer-songwriter Beyoncé has recognized Sade, calling her music a "true friend". The late singer Aaliyah noted that she admired Sade because "she stays true to her style no matter what... she's an amazing artist, an amazing performer... and I absolutely love her." American R&B singer Brandy has cited Sade as one of her major vocal influences. Singer Keri Hilson said, "My Dad would whistle Sade melodies randomly all the time. As a kid, I used to try to whistle along to 'Cherish the Day' or 'The Sweetest Taboo.' He was a real Sade fan and made me one, too!" Kelly Rowland stated she is inspired by Sade Adu and says that "she has a style that's totally her own."
She squatted in Wood Green, North London, in the 1980s, with her then-boyfriend English writer Robert Elms. In 1989, she married Spanish film director Carlos Pliego. Their marriage ended in 1995. She moved briefly to the Caribbean to live with Jamaican music producer Bob Morgan in the late-1990s, but they later separated. During her relationship with Bob Morgan, she gave birth to Mickailia (who studied at Wycliffe College in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire) in 1995. In 2016 on National Coming Out Day, Mickailia came out as a transgender man.
In 2005, Sade moved to the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire in the countryside where she bought a run-down, stone-built cottage near Stroud to renovate. Prior to the release of Soldier of Love in 2010, the Daily Mail described her as "famously reclusive". On her disavowal of overt fame, she said in 2012: "Artistically, I have high aspirations. I don’t want to do anything less than the best I can do."
Awards and nominations
- Absolute Beginners OST (Virgin, 1986)
- 1984: Diamond Life Tour
- 1986: Promise Tour
- 1988: Stronger Than Pride Tour
- 1993: Love Deluxe World Tour
- 2001: Lovers Rock Tour
- 2011: Sade Live