Developing a good singing voice in her teens, Sade worked part-time jobs in and outside of the music business. She listened to Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and Billie Holliday. Sade studied fashion design at St. Martin's School of Art in London while also doing some modeling on the side.
Around 1980, she started singing harmony with a Latin funk group called Arriva. One of the more popular numbers that the group would perform was a Sade original co-written with bandmember Ray St. John, "Smooth Operator," that would later become Sade's first stateside hit. The following year she joined the eight-piece funk band Pride as a background singer. The band included future Sade band members guitarist/saxophonist Stuart Matthewman (a key player in '90s urban soul singer Maxwell's success) and bassist Paul Denman. The concept of the group was that there could shoot-offs. In essence, a few members within the main group Pride formed mini-groups that would be the opening act. Pride did a lot of shows around London, stirring up record company interest. Initially, the labels wanted to only sign Sade, while the group members wanted a deal for the whole band. After a year, the other band members told Sade, Matthewman, and Denman to go ahead and sign a deal. Adding keyboardist Andrew Hale, the group signed to the U.K. division of Epic Records.
Her debut album, Diamond Life (with overall production by Robin Millar), went Top Ten in the U.K. in late 1984. January 1985 saw the album released on CBS' Portrait label and by spring it went platinum off the strength of the Top Ten singles "Smooth Operator" and "Hang on to Your Love." Her third album, Promise (November 1985), featured "Never As Good As the First Time" and arguably her signature song, "The Sweetest Taboo," which stayed on the U.S. pop charts for six months. 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 play lists. In 1986, Sade won a Grammy for Best New Artist.
Sade's third album was 1988's Stronger Than Pride and featured her first number one soul single "Paradise," "Nothing Can Come Between Us," and "Keep Looking." A new Sade album didn't appear for four years. 1992's Love Deluxe continued the unbroken streak of multi-platinum Sade albums, spinning off the hits "No Ordinary Love," "Feel No Pain," and "Pearls." While the album's producer Mike Pela, Matthewman, Denman, and Hale have gone on to other projects. The new millennium did spark a new scene for Sade. She issued Lovers Rock in fall 2000 and incoporated more mainstream elements than ever before. Debut single "By Your Side" was also a hit among radio and adult-contemporary listerners. The following summer, Sade embarked on her first tour in more than a decade, selling out countless dates across America. In early 2002, she celebrated the success of the tour by releasing her first ever live album and DVD, Lovers Live. ~ Ed Hogan, All Movie Guide