Sade (pronounced “Sharday”) was born in Nigeria in 1959 as Helen Folasade Adu, the daughter of a Nigerian father and a British mother. When her parents divorced, Sade moved to Britain with her mother.
She moved to London at the age of seventeen to take a three-year course in fashion and design at St. Martin’s College of Art in the West End.
At the same time, she also discovered the joys of the capital’s clubland.
When she completed her course, she struck out on her own, designing, and selling men’s clothes, operating on what could delicately be described as a tight profit margin.
It was a time when the art and music worlds were more intertwined than ever before, and when an acquaintance who managed a band asked if she wanted to try some backup singing with the jazz-funk band, Pride, she was more than willing.
By early 1984, she was the lead singer and songwriter for the group which took her name.
Sade’s soulful 1984 debut single, Your Love Is King, reached the Top 10 in the UK and Europe, and propelled her first album, Diamond Life, to the top of the charts in Britain and America.
A collection of sophisticated jazz-pop, it was one of the most successful debuts ever by a female artist – spending over 80 weeks on the Billboard album charts – and made her one of the richest women on the UK pop scene (and also won her a Grammy for Best New Artist).
Sade toured America, Europe, and Asia and performed at the Live Aid benefit.
1985 and 1986 were bad years for Sade at home. The British critics grumbled, and fleet street tabloids entertained themselves with fictional stories like the one about her giving birth and buying Fulham Football Club.
The most famous one concerned her allegedly walking off stage at the beginning of a concert in Frankfurt on the Promise world tour. In fact, she simply refused to play an encore, exhausted after nearly nine months on the road.
But an emotional trauma was the popular verdict down at the seedy end of Fleet Street.
Sade then retreated to Spain and withdrew from the media spotlight, until returning to recording in 1988, with Stronger Than Pride, another R&B hit, followed by another huge world tour.
She retired again, this time to London, where she turned her house into a recording studio. Her 1992 album (Love Deluxe) contained the hit, No Ordinary Love, which was featured on the Indecent Proposal soundtrack. Yet another tour followed.
In 1997 the singer was arrested in Jamaica following a traffic dispute with local police and fled the country, threatened with arrest if she ever returns. She followed up with another smash hit, Lovers Rock in 2000, and recorded Lovers Live in 2002.