Sade Adu (born Helen Folasade Adu) is a Nigerian-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer. A contralto vocal range singer, she is the most successful solo female artist in British history, having sold over 110 million copies of her eleven albums worldwide.
Sade was born in Ibadan, Oyo State on January 16, 1959. Her father, Adebisi Adu, who hailed from Ikere Ekiti, was an economics lecturer and her mother, Anne Hayes, was an English district nurse. The couple met in London while her father was studying at the LondonLondon School of Economics (LSE – now the London School of Economics and Political Science). They married in 1955 and moved to Nigeria shortly afterward. When their daughter was born, no one was prepared to call her by her English name and a shortened version of Folasade (’Sade’) stuck. When she was four, her parents separated and her mother brought her and her elder brother Banji back to England where they initially lived with their grandparents in Colchester, Essex.
When Sade was 11, she moved to Holland-on-Sea to live with her mother. After completing school at 18, she moved to London and studied fashion at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. While in college, she joined a North London Latin funk-soul band called Pride in which she sang backing vocals. She had initially failed her audition but was later invited when the members found that they had no other candidate who was more qualified. Her solo performances of the song "Smooth Operator" attracted the attention of record companies and in 1983, she signed a solo deal with Epic Records with three members of the band (Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale, and Paul Denman) to form the Sade band (which is named after her). Their debut album Diamond Life was released in 1984.
Her biggest hit "Your Love is King" (from her debut album) shot her into the limelight. The album itself sold more than 23 million copies.
In 2002, she appeared on the Red Hot Organisation's Red Hot + Riot, a compilation CD recorded in tribute to the music of fellow Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti. She recorded a remix of her single "By Your Side" for the album and was billed as a co-producer. In that same year, she received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace for services to music, an award which she dedicated to all black women in England.
She has been nominated twenty-four times for various musical prizes ranging from the Soul Train Music Awards and MTV Video Music Awards to the highly coveted Grammy Awards. She has won an American Music Award (Favourite Adult Contemporary Artist - 2002), a BRIT Award (Best British album - 1985), and several Grammys (Best New Artist – 1986; Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals – 1994 and 2011; Best Pop Vocal Album – 2002).
Sade gave birth to her daughter, Ila Adu, in 1995 after a relationship with Jamaican music producer Bob Morgan. She lives in the English countryside. Soldier of Love, her most recent studio album, was released in 2010.