When the British group Sade released its sexy, laid-back debut album Diamond Life in 1984, it wasn’t just the tasty jazz-flavored riffs that made songs like “Smooth Operator” and “Your Love Is King” such mega hits—most of all it was the sultry-voiced biracial empress on the microphone. Born in her father’s native Nigeria, Helen Folasade Adu moved to her mum’s motherland at the age of four. A former fashion designer, she met up with musicians Stewart Matthewman (a.k.a. Cottonbelly), Paul Denman, Andrew Hale, and Paul Cooke when their ensemble was still called Pride. By age 24 she’d transformed herself into Sade, a melancholy soul singer. Overcoming boundaries of class and race by connecting with everyone from b-boys and jazz fiends to pop radio fans, Sade won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1986. To date Sade has sold over 57 million albums worldwide, including 2010’s triumphant hit album Soldier Of Love—despite a ten-year hiatus, the 50-year-old legend hasn’t missed a beat.