She was born on January 25, 1981 in Manhattan, New York City as a daughter of a white mother, Terri Augello, and a black father, Craig Cook. She was also raised in New York.
She first played a piano when she was seven. She learned classical music of Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin, which was her favorite. She wrote her first song "Butterflyz" at the age of fourteen; the song can be found on her debut album. Keys' mother was the one who most supported her during the time when Keys was developing her talents.
Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor, was commercially successful. With it she won five Grammy Awards in 2002. Because she wrote her own songs and played several instruments with technical prowess, consumers saw Keys as an original voice at a time when the musical marketplace was flooded with pop bands that were little more than an attractive front for the creative energies of others. As such, she established a large fanbase of devoted fans, making her one of the most popular artists of the early years of the twenty-first century. Critical reviews were mostly positive, though many found Keys derivative, with a sound reminiscent of 1970s soul singers like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye with hip hop influences that were less original than similar blends from nu soul artists like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and D'Angelo.
Keys graduated as valedictorian from the Professional Performing Arts School, a public high school in Manhattan. She briefly attended Columbia University on a scholarship before devoting full time to her music career.
In late 2003, Keys released her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, and also its first single "You Don't Know My Name". In early 2004, the album's second single, "If I Ain't Got You" was released. It is currently climbing the charts.