If there’s one album of which I can’t believe it’s 35 years old already, it’s Sade’s Diamond Life, and yet, here we are.
Helen Folasade Adu was born on January 16th, 1959, in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. She was the daughter of a Nigerian father and an English mother. When Helen was four years old her parents divorced and she moved to England with her mother and older brother. After high school, she moved to London, England, to study fashion design .
After finishing her study, she worked as a fashion designer, at which she was rather successful (the band Spandau Ballet bought her clothing and took her on their first tour of the US to be their stylist). She also started working as a model and she was asked to be a background singer in the band Pride (solely based on her looks). It turned out she had a natural gift for music. While in the band she met the man who was to be her musical aid and friend, guitar and saxophone player Stuart Matthewman. They started writing songs together, sometimes separately, but more often together. Accompanied by Pride’s rhythm section, they opened Pride shows as Sade.
During those shows Sade Adu (as she had started to call herself) played her own song Smooth Operator, which went down very well. Record companies started taking notice.
However, there was some trepidation as well. The band did have a beautiful, charismatic singer, but the music was far removed from everything that was popular at the time. At the end of 1983 Sade devised a plan. They would launch her as The Face of 1984 on the front page of the fashion/music magazine The Face. On the day the issue was published the band had organized a show, making sure every newspaper and magazine publisher was invited. The show was a huge success (reportedly, more than 1,000 people had to be sent away, all wanting to get inside, but the house was packed).
The plan worked like a charm. Record companies were queued up and Sade could make every demand she wanted to. Everybody wanted her. She picked Epic Records, who agreed to signing the band Sade instead of just singer Sade. They also agreed to paying £ 60,000 upfront and a (very high) 15% share of the sales profits. To top that of, she was granted the right to release as much (or little) music as she pleased.
The band went into London studio The Power Plant and recorded their debut album within six weeks.
On July 16th, 1984, Sade’s debut album was released. It was a phenomenal success and is one the best-selling debut albums by an English female singer (even though the name Sade represents the band).
It took seven months to release the album in the US, but it was equally successful there.
During their six weeks in the studio the band had recorded 15 songs. Because the album’s ‘feel’ was intended to be laid-back, the faster songs were discarded. The album sounds flexible, combining elements of soft-pop, soul, funk and jazz. Many of the songs’ lyrics deal with love or the lack thereof.
But social topics are dealt with as well, particularly in songs like When Am I Going to Make a Living and the Timmy Thomas cover Why Can’t We Live Together.
Besides the quality of the songs, the album breathes sound wise. I never knew this before, but all songs were played and recorded live in the studio. The band rehearsed the songs really well and played/recorded them, oftentimes in just one take. The album sounds as one coherent piece of music because of it. My wife recently remarked it still sounds so fresh and current, even after 35 years. She’s right: it really is a timeless classic.
The album opens with Smooth Operator, one of the band’s biggest hits, a song about a heartless gigolo. Your Love Is King had been recorded prior to the recording of the album. It was the song the band presented itself with to the world. It was the first single, that was released before the album was available.
Hang On To Your Love is more up-tempo and funky. Frankie’s First Affair shares the same theme as Smooth Operator, but is more explicit in the consequences of the gigolo’s actions.
When Am I Going To Make A Living was born when Sade Adu kept on writing the line over and over again in a laundry service. At the time, she was poor and hopes for better times were dim. Lines like We’re hungry for a life we can’t afford and We’re hungry but we won’t give in say it all.
One of the oldest songs, Cherry Pie, was the hardest to record. Its complexity combined with playing it live, was a challenge. The following Sally seems to be about a woman, but is really about the Salvation Army.
I Will Be Your Friend is about love and support. The closing Why Can’t We Live Together was a favorite in Sade Adu’s child years. The songs was recorded as a tribute to the original by Timmy Thomas.
All songs written by Sade Adu and Stuart Matthewman, unless stated otherwise.
- Smooth Operator *
- Your Love Is King
- Hang On To Your Love
- Frankie’s First Affair
- When Am I Going To Make a Living
- Cherry Pie **
- I Will Be Your Friend
- Why Can’t We Live Together ***
|*||Sade Adu, Ray St. John|
|**||Sade Adu, Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale, Paul Denman|
Some cassette releases of the album contain two extra songs:
- Smooth Operator/Snake Bite
- Love Affair With Life
- Sade Adu – vocals
- Andrew Hale – keyboards
- Stuart Matthewman – guitar, saxophone
- Paul Denman – basa
- Terry Bailey – trumpet
- Paul Anthony Cook – drums
- Martin Ditcham – percussion
- Dave Early – drums, percussion
- Gordon Matthewman – trumpet
The first Sade single, Your Love Is King, was released on February 25th, 1984, in Europe. It was an instant success. The second single, When Am I Going To Make A Living was less successful. But Smooth Operator ensured the band’s breakthrough. It was released on September 15th, 1984. and was a huge success, in the US as well. In the US Hang On To Your Love was released as a single as well.
After Diamond Life
The band went on tour and sold out everywhere they went. It didn’t take long for Sade Adu to dislike the fame that went with their success. The inaccurate articles on the band irritated her immensely. The band was categorized as a typical representation of the yuppie culture, that was on the rise at the time and was used to describe quick, money minded and little committed entertainment. In truth, the band spent a lot of money (which the band didn’t have yet) to charity, including Arthur Scargill and the striking miners.
On July 3rd, 1985, one year after their debut, Sade took the stage of the English version of Live Aid, the biggest charity event the world had ever witnessed. Sade enchanted billions all over the world with her music and indescribable beauty. Remarkably, Sade Adu was the only performing artist who had actual African blood running through her veins.
At the end of 1985 the band released their second album, Promise, which turned into a huge success as well. The biggest single from that album was The Sweetest Taboo. In 1988 the third album, Stronger Than Pride, was released which was followed by Love Deluxe four years later. In 1994 the band released the compilation The Best Of Sade.
Following eight years of silence, Sade’s fifth album, Lovers Rock was released in 2000. Once again resulting in huge sales numbers, and two Grammy Awards. After the tour the band released their first live album, Lovers Live, in 2002.
And again, the band disappeared for another eight years. Early 2010 a new album, Soldier Of Love, was released. While on tour a second compilation was released in 2011, The Ultimate Collection. In 2012 the band’s second live album, Bring Me Home – Live 2011, was released.
Reportedly, the band is currently working on a new album.
Sade is popular among musicians. Sources state that Prince also was a great admirer. Sade’s music has been invaluable for bands and artists like Soul II Soul, Caron Wheeler, The Brand New Heavies, Simply Red, Jamiroquai and Lisa Stansfield. The band was also influential on neo-soul, the movement ruled by D’Angelo.
What do you think about Sade. And Diamond Life? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Sade seduces the world with Diamond Life. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Sade 1983-1984 image: 45worlds.com
Sade Adu 1983 image: londonist.com
Sade – Diamond Life & Sade – Diamond Life – Singles & Sade – Promise, Stronger Than Pride, Love Deluxe, Lovers Rock, Soldier Of Love images: discogs.com
Sade Adu image: testpressing.org
Sade – The band image: pinterest.com
Sade – Live Aid image: whatdavidbowiewoulddo.blogspot.com