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Sade and Maxwell: cut from the same cloth?
For a long time now I have prided myself in being a fan of, and immensely enjoying, the music of both Sade and Maxwell. One day, as I read about each musician and artist’s life, I couldn’t help but notice that they share a bevy of similarities. Whether in their personal life or their music career.
Admiring the qualities in both the aspects, I decided to write something to share with other fans of the two soulful beings. Initially, I wrote it for this space, YEAHBO. When I was done, a thought crossed my mind that I could share it on a different medium. So, I approached a few print publications, including Destiny Man magazine and City Press‘ supplement, 7 (former City Pulse). Unfortunately, the nature of the article or feature doesn’t necessarily fit with either publication format.
Therefore, I have decided to bring it back home. I hope you enjoy reading this piece as much as I loved writing it. Here it goes:
Sade and Maxwell, what do they have in common?
Sade and Maxwell may have been born decades apart, but they share more in common than their mature, challenging, sensual, timeless, courageous, and soulful music sound.
Helen Folasade Adu, otherwise known as Sade, was born to a Nigerian university teacher and an English nurse, in 1959. She moved from her birthplace of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, to England with her brother and mother at age 4 to live with her grandparents, after her parents split. At age 11, she joined her mother at Holland-on-Sea. By age 18, Sade had finished school. She relocated to London to study at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
While at college, Sade joined a band called Pride, in which she provided background vocals. Her opportunity to sing solo on Smooth Operator, a song she had written herself, yielded positive results. This stint attracted the attention of record company scouts. In 1983, she inked a solo deal with Epic Records, but she negotiated that three members of Pride, Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale and Paul Denman, join her. Their debut album, Diamond Life, was released in 1984, and they haven’t looked back ever since. Sade comfortably and proudly holds the record as the most successful solo female artist in British history, having sold over 110 million albums worldwide.
Widely known only as Maxwell, the emissary of soul was born Gerard Menard Maxwell Rivera, of Puerto Rican and black Caribbean stock in 1973, in Brooklyn, New York. Having lost his father to a plane crash at age 3, he grew up a deeply religious child. Although he didn’t take music seriously until age 17 when he began writing songs using a cheap Casio keyboard given to him by a friend, Maxwell had begun singing at his Baptist church.
By 1991, he was deep into club gig scene, which led to his name getting on many a lips and ears. This resulted in Maxwell signing a contract with Columbia. The music he recorded, with the help of songwriter Leon Ware, guitarist Wah Wah Watson, and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Matthewman, was shelved by Columbia due to doubts of its potential among a hip-hop soul filled industry. It wasn’t until 1996 that Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite was released. Maxwell has gone on to enjoy platinum album sales status, as well as garnered an array of accolades throughout his career.
The Personal Lives
One of the similarities that Sade and Maxwell enjoy is their tremendous privacy. The documented personal details about both the musicians are decidedly minimal.
The soul songstress dated journalist Robert Elms in her early twenties. In 1989, Adu married Spanish film director Carlos Pliego. After the dissolution of the marriage in 1995, she was involved with a Jamaican singer, a relationship which spawned her daughter, Ila Adu, in 1996. Adu currently lives in Stroud in the UK with her partner Ian, as well as his son Jack and her daughter Ida. She keeps the rest of her personal life private, only making appearances related to her career and her humanitarian efforts.
The soul crooner, on the other hand, has been seen in public with a horde of beauties (including Victoria Secrets model Selita Ebanks and actress Sanaa Lathan) in his arms over the years. None of these relationships have ever been confirmed. Only recently, Maxwell was pictured on the MTV Video Music Awards black carpet with what was reported to be his son. Spotting locks similar to those last seen on Maxwell prior to his last album, the boy looks to be about 8 – 10 years old. With his recent utterances about wanting to get married and have kids, it’s hard to believe he could have a kid already. For the most part Maxwell, too, enjoys life in seclusion, away from the prying eyes.
The band Sade has only released, to date, 6 albums, in the career spanning 26 years. And these projects have only been offered sparingly in-between. The last issue was Soldier Of Love, which came out last year (2010), almost 10 years after its predecessor Lover’s Rock. This is due to nothing but a matter of keeping things authentic and honest. She proclaimed herself, “I only make records when I feel I have something to say. I’m not interested in releasing music just for the sake of selling something. Sade is not a brand.”
Musze, as Maxwell is also affectionately known, has released 4 studio albums, as well as the live set from the MTV: Unplugged sessions. He also takes his time before each project, the last one, BLACKsummers’night (first installment of the scheduled trilogy), only appearing in 2009, about 8 years since the release of Now. Just before its release, Maxwell uttered, “I didn’t intentionally step away from all of it, but I just wanted to…live my life a little bit, and then be able to make music with that pure experience again.“ Although the second episode, blackSUMMERS’night, was due to be released a year later, it is no surprise that his fans are still waiting.
Both these gifted musicians have never collaborated with any other artist since the establishment of their respective careers. It was only this year that Sade allowed rapper Jay-Z to lend his rap vocals on a remix of a song that was included on the band’s latest compilation project.
When Sade, the band, was busy recording their 2010 offering, there were online rumours that Maxwell was to contribute his voice to a duet with Adu. He was swift to take into his Twitter profile to dismiss what could have been dubbed as one of the most groundbreaking experiences for both the artists, and their fans. However, his dismissal possessed a hint of a wish on his part, for such an occasion.
Interestingly enough though, there has been some links between the two musicians. Maxwell borrowed Sade member Stuart Matthewman’s skills during the recording of his debut album. Moreover, when the band Sade is on a hiatus, they record music under a concept band Sweetback, but without Adu’s vocal input. Seeing that Sade was instrumental in the creation of Urban Hang Suite, it was only natural for Maxwell to lend a hand on a track on their first stylish and atmospheric self-titled project. This shows a great deal of respect between these musicians. The dynamics emanating from these relationships also enhances this rapport.
Whether it’s their passion and dedication to their artistry, their compassion shown in their involvement with their respective charity causes, or their sense of mystery in their personal lives, Sade and Maxwell seem to be cut from the same cloth. Their approach to life and music is exemplary, especially in the space where fame can be detrimental to one’s career. As they go about living their lives, their fans continue to appreciate and adore them, as long as they keep delivering. And deliver, they do. No matter how long those fans have to wait. And judging by Maxwell’s tweets about being in the studio just a few weeks ago, we may not have to wait for very long for blackSUMMERS’night.
Maxwell has again recently hinted that blackSUMMERS’night with drop this year through his tweet. I can’t wait to hear what he’s been cooking in the studio.