Alicia J. Augello-Cook was born in Harlem, New York in 1981, and is known to the world as Alicia Keys. Her parents are Teresa Augello, a woman of Irish and Italian descent, and Craig Cook, a man of Jamaican heritage. Alicia Keys' parents separated while she was young, leaving the young girl to be raised by her mother in Hell's Kitchen.
At the age of four, Alicia Keys actually appeared in an episode of The Cosby Show as a sleepover guest. Growing up, she was immersed in music, and was an enthusiast of the piano. She loved Chopin and learned other classical music by composers like Beethoven and Mozart. When choosing her stage name at sixteen, she nearly chose Wilde, but her manager suggested Keys after a dream he had.
Alicia Keys went on to graduate as valedictorian at the young age of sixteen from the Professional Performing Arts School and opted out of going to college in order to pursue a music career. She signed with Jermaine Dupri and So So Def where she recorded the song "Dah Dee Dah" in 1997. The song was on the Men in Black soundtrack and was Keys' first professional recording. However, the relationship with So So Def and Columbia didn't last and the contract ended. Keys left the label and joined Clive Davis, who brought Alicia Keys to his new J Records.
In 2001, Alicia Keys released her debut album, Songs in A Minor and saw immediate success. The album went on to sell ten million units worldwide, and won Alicia Keys five Grammy Awards. The album went six times platinum in the United States and its single "Fallin" went gold. "Fallin" topped both the R&B and Hot 100 charts. The album's later single "A Woman's Worth" reached #3 on the R&B charts and #7 on the Hot 100, while "How Come You Don't Call Me" reached #30 on the R&B charts.
Alicia Keys continued her success in 2003 with her sophomore effort The Diary of Alicia Keys. The album sold 618,000 copies in its first week and went four times platinum in the US. The album's "You Don't Know My Name" and "If I Ain't Got You" both topped the R&B charts with the former reaching #3 on the Hot 100 and the latter peaking at #4. The album's third single, "Diary" reached #8 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B charts. The album helped Alicia Keys earn another four Grammy Awards.
In 2005, Alicia Keys released her performance on MTV Unplugged as a cd. The album went platinum in the US and featured a cover of Marvin Gaye's "If This World Were Mine."
Alicia Keys then put out her third studio album, As I Am in 2007. It debuted to first-week sales of 742,000 copies and was her fourth consecutive number one album, a record for female artists tied with Britney Spears. The album went on to be triple platinum with its lead single, "No One" topping the Hot 100 and R&B charts. The album's other single "Like You'll Never See Me Again" reached #12 on the Hot 100 and topped the R&B charts.
Outside of music, Alicia Keys has appeared in the movies Smokin' Aces and The Nanny Diaries.
She is also an active philanthropist. Alicia Keys is the Global Ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, an organization dedicated to providing African children with AIDS medication. In support of reducing AIDS in African nations, Alicia Keys has visited Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.