This is the time to start believing in yourself: Sade, the smooth and sexy high priestess of soul

By on August 15, 2018

Since it was recently announced that Sade — the Nigerian-born fashion designer-turned-singer who Night Flight’s Pat Prescott calls the “smooth and sexy high priestess of soul” — was back in the recording studio again, recording her first collection of new songs since 2010’s Soldier of Love, we thought it might be a good time to take another look at Night Flight’s “Video Profile: Sade.”

You can see this Sade special — which features several of her videos interspersed with segments from an exclusive interview she did at the Night Flight studio in 1985, where she talks about her album Diamond Life — on Night Flight Plus.

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This profile features her music videos for “Hang On To Your Love” (directed by Brian Ward & K. Thorton), “Smooth Operator” and “Your Love is King” (both directed by Julien Temple), “When Am I Going To Make A Living” (directed by Stuart Orme), and “Sweetest Taboo” (directed by Brian Ward).

By the way, the lyrics for her 1984 single “When Am I Going To Make A Living” — “This is the time to start believing in yourself/Put the blame on no one else “ — read like Sade’s own biographical saga, a paean to not giving up on doing what you want to creatively do with your life.

Our interview with Sade was also featured in the second part of Night Flight’s two-hour special “Visions ’85: A Mid-Year Review,” which we told you about here (be sure to check out this older post, where we go into a lot more biographical detail about Sade’s career).

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Sade was born Helen Folasade Adu on January 16, 1959, in the village of Ibadan, in Oyo State, about fifty miles from Lagos, the capitol of Nigeria.

When her seductive and sultry vocals swept into our lives like a quiet storm in the mid-’80s, her U.S. record company, Epic Records, made a point of printing how her name should be pronounced (“pronounced shar-day”), but that pronunciation turns out to have been incorrect!

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In her interview with Night Flight, Sade tells us Americans pronounce her name differently than how they did in England at the time (we apparently hit that hard “r” in her name that the Brits don’t).

She explains that she uses a shortened version of her middle name (no one has ever called her Helen), which in the Yoruba-language of the West Africa country of Nigeria is Fọláṣadé Adú.

Sade: “My true pronunciation is Fọláṣadé Adú, which means ‘crowning glory.’ I could have actually been called Fọlá, which is like a prefix, which is quite a common prefix, in fact, or I could have been called Ṣadé…”

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Read more about Sade below.

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On October 18, 1983, Sade signed her first record contract  with the U.K. division of Epic Records, a label distributed by Columbia (eventually Sony) worldwide.

The domestic release of the band’s debut album, Diamond Life, arrived in January ’85 on the Portrait label, another CBS-distributed imprint.

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Diamond Life had the distinction of being the best-selling album by a British woman singer in history (until Adele, of course), selling over six million copies, and going on to become one of the top-selling debut recordings of the 1980s.

“Smooth Operator” — released as the fourth and final single from Diamond Life in both the United States and the United Kingdom — ultimately peaked at #5 on the charts.

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The album was hugely successful, propelled by the last single’s success as well as three previously-released hit singles, “Hang On to Your Love,” the album’s title track and the first single from the album, “Your Love is King,” which was a Top Ten British hit in February ’84.

At the time, she was living as a squatter in a converted fire station in Finsbury Park, in North London’s Wood Green area, with her then-boyfriend, writer Robert Elms. The building had no heating, and Sade had to dress under the covers in bed each morning because it was too cold.

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In November of 1985, she had a band new album to promote Promise, another multi-platinum seller — peaking at #1 on the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200, selling four million copies.

Promise featured the Top 20 R&B and Pop hits “Never As Good As the First Time,” and another Top Five charter, “Sweetest Taboo,” which would become her signature song while it remained on the U.S. charts for more than six months.

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Sade’s soft contempo jazzy-pop sound — not to mention “Taboo”‘s lyrics “There’s a quiet storm, and it never felt like this before” — were both quickly associated with an earlier R&B movement pioneered nearly a decade earlier, called “Quiet Storm,” an FM radio format named for Smokey Robinson’s 1976 album A Quiet Storm.

Her Quiet Storm-sounding hits became so popular that some U.S. radio stations who were exclusively playing ’70s-era album tracks by soul and R&B singers added some of her songs — including “Is It A Crime?” and “Tar Baby” — to their playlists.

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In 1986, Sade would win a Grammy award for Best New Artist, and that year she would make her acting debut in the British film Absolute Beginners.

Watch “Video Profile: Sade.” — along with other video profiles of some of the top acts in the Eighties — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.