Alicia Keys: Inspired By Bono, Impressed By Jamie Foxx

Grammy winner picks creative endeavors carefully, lends time to causes generously.

Alicia Keys’ recent Grammy wins weren’t her first, but you wouldn’t know that by talking to the soulful songstress, who scored four awards, including Best R&B Album.

“It’s so exciting,” Keys said backstage after the show. “What an incredible night and year. I just feel so honored to be here and blessed to have been received in this way again for my work that I just truly do from my heart” (see “Kanye Steals The Show, But Ray Dominates Grammy Winners’ Circle” ).

Keys performed from her heart when she teamed with Jamie Foxx and Quincy Jones to pay homage to the late Ray Charles with a cover of “Georgia on My Mind.” The latest in a string of Ray Charles tributes the singer has done in recent months, the song was the first time she collaborated with Foxx, but according to Keys, she wasn’t surprised by his skills.

“I know the depth of his talent, and it runs deep,” Keys said of Foxx. “He did the title song for ‘Any Given Sunday’ when he was in that, and that song was crazy. But people never understood how versatile he is, so I wasn’t surprised at all. When we got together you could just feel his passion for music, how much he loves it and how good he is at it. I mean, he’s good — he plays for real. He doesn’t just kind-of-sort-of play, he plays for real and he sings for real.
“It was really a touching moment,” she added. “I felt God was with it. I felt Ray was with us. I felt a lot of angels with us.”

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Keys also had the opportunity to perform with many other artists she admires, including Stevie Wonder and U2′s Bono, when they covered the Beatles’ “Across The Universe.” Taking part in the song, which now serves as a charity download for tsunami relief, is just the latest of Keys’ many philanthropic efforts — something she credits Bono with.

“I have to say he’s a big inspiration for me,” Keys said. “I think that he’s really a very worldly person — somebody who really takes into perspective everything that is going on — [and] I do as well. From the ghettos of Harlem and L.A. to the pandemic of AIDS in Africa, where I got involved in keepachildalive.org; to the youth in Jacksonville who don’t have any mentors, where I got involved with From the Ground Up, ftgu.org; in the Bronx, so close to where I grew up, to a gentleman that helped me get started — he has a whole organization called Teens in Motion. Just being able to help reach out to people, show my love and my gratitude and know that there is more than just superficial things going on in this world. It’s so much deeper, so it’s definitely important for me to get involved in what’s important.”

Now, with nine Grammys and a host of charitable ventures to her credit, Keys still finds time to write and produce for other artists via her Krucial Keys production company, with partner Kerry “Krucial” Brothers. The duo has already produced tracks for the likes of Mario and Christina Aguilera, among others.

“Krucial just finished producing Keyshia Cole’s second single, which is bananas,” Keys explained. “When y’all hear that, it’s going to be crazy. We definitely love collaborating with artists. We pick and choose, take it kind of easy and let the vibe move us. But there is so much coming up in the future for Krucial Keys, [from] the writers that we sign, the producers that we have and just really continuing to grow as a legacy, to really create quality and make something that is going to last the test of time. That’s why we don’t just go ahead and do anything and everything. We pick things that are really special and are going to be here forever — classic.”

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