If you’re under a certain age, I don’t know, say 45, the name Sade (Shah-DAY) may be fairly well unknown to you. But in her heyday, essentially the Eighties/early Nineties. she was every bit as big as Adele is today. Her story….
Helen Folasade Adu is a Nigerian-born British singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, and record producer. She was raised in Nigeria and moved to England when she was eleven years old.
Interestingly, music wasn’t her first choice. She attended London’s fashion institute, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She actually designed a men’s clothing collection at one point. After modeling for a while she then turned her focus to music.
From her website: “Sade grew up listening to American soul music, particularly the wave led in the 1970’s by artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, and Bill Withers. As a teenager, she saw the Jackson 5 at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, London where she worked behind the bar at weekends.
“I was more fascinated by the audience than by anything that was going on on the stage. They’d attracted kids, mothers with children, old people, white, black. I was really moved. That’s the audience I’ve always aimed for.””
Sade initially sang with a soul band called Pride. But she and several of the other members broke away (“three skinny white boys” she calls them) and in 1982, formed the band Sade named for the woman who was now their lead singer. The band quickly became popular in London, even before they made a record of any sort.
Executives at Epic records heard the band and quickly signed them to a contract. They worked on their first album, Diamond Life, for six weeks. While recording it, for inspiration they listened to some of their favorite artists: Ray Charles, Gil Scott-Heron, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone.
Released in the UK in 1984, it was an instant smash, spawning four hit singles. going multi-platinum, and winning the 1985 Brit award for best British album
The first song I ever heard was “Smooth Operator” and instantly fell in love with it. To this day, when I hear it, I am no longer your average schmuck who spent way too much time in the “friend zone” with the ladies. I am now an international jet set player with a Savile Row suit and a Lamborghini. I drink Glenlivet scotch, neat. I smoke Gauloises, which are, of course, unfiltered.
My champagne? Please. Dom Perignon. 1961. £2500/bottle you say? Ask me if I care. The Smooth Operator can find that amount of money rummaging for lost change in his couch. The ladies by the pool at the Ritz, on seeing the Operator, wave their hotel keys, hold their hands up to their ears as if cradling a phone and whisper the words, “Call me.”
Recall that this was the era when MTV was very much of a force, unlike today. (Do they even still show videos?) With her exotic looks, smooth voice that sounds just like she looks, and the band’s soul and “quiet storm” sound, they were in heavy rotation all the time.
In 1985, the band played to a worldwide audience at Bob Geldof’s Live Aid show. Sade released another hit album, Promise, in late 1985. Another smash, another multi-platinum seller, the band went on to win a Grammy for Best New Artist.
Many of the band’s songs are about love, lost or gained. (Sade herself co-wrote a good number of them.) But they do it so well and it’s so smooth. Is it sometimes lounge music? Sure, but with a good dash of soul.
Here’s “The Sweetest Taboo:”
During this time, the band embarked on a couple of world tours which were wildly successful. Nope, never went to see them. Wouldn’t have been my thing back then. I certainly would consider it if they came back.
The band took an eight-year hiatus in the Nineties, coming back with a successful album called Lovers Rock. After that, they took a ten-year hiatus during which time Sade raised her daughter.
Lovers Rock is a good album but I want to instead post the song “No Ordinary Love.” This song was used as part of the soundtrack for the movie Indecent Proposal back in 1993. (For the record, this is the one where Robert Redford offers Demi Moore and her husband Woody Harrelson a million bucks to sleep with her. Hell, I’m straight and I would totally take his offer.)
Here’s a live version from 2011:
What’s the band been up to since then? Well, their last album was 2010, last tour the above one from 2011. That is a freakin’ eon in the pop world. But Sade is married, has a kid and has pretty much moved out of the pop spotlight. Will she tour again? Who knows. I guarantee you if she did this would sell out in two seconds.
The band has been nominated for 42 awards, won 8, four of which were Grammys. Check it out here.
Other than additions of personnel on the road, by all accounts Sade and her band are tight and if they re-form, you bet it’d be with her regular guys.
- Sade Adu – vocals
- Andrew Hale – keyboards
- Stuart Matthewman – guitar, saxophone
- Paul Denman – bass