By Dave Andrusko
It was a seemingly throwaway line from substitute CBS Sunday Morning News host Lee Cowan. Cowan was introducing a piece by correspondent Tracy Smith. Smith had interviewed megastar Alicia Keys about a week prior, and Cowan mentioned they’d be chatting about Keys’ “new book as well as other matters.”
Those “other matters” included the revelation that Keys’ mother almost aborted her! Some backdrop puts that courageous decision in perspective.
Smith says of Keys that “for the past few years, the 39-year-old married mother of two started doing some hard soul-searching, and the result is a book: not a memoir, but more a journal of self-discovery: More Myself: A Journey.”
Keys goes back to the very beginning, writing about how her mom, Terry Augello (who was then a single paralegal), had a relationship with flight attendant Craig Cook, and got pregnant.
Smith says to Keys, “Your mom talks about how she nearly had an abortion.” Keys responds
“Right. Even her mother said to her, ‘Terry, you never do anything easy.’ She was making a really big choice. And at the time, I’m sure she didn’t even know why she was making that choice exactly. But she knew it. She knew what she needed to do.”
Augello did more than Choose Life for Keys. A single mother and always short on money, she raised Keys in Hell’s Kitchen, then, as now, a very dangerous place to live. And although they had the usual mother/daughter drama (“tough love”), in the end, Keys became a musical prodigy.
She graduated as valedictorian of her high school, “was offered a scholarship to Columbia University – and, somewhat poetically, a contract with Columbia Records.”
Her career took off in 2001 with the song “Fallin,” from her debut album, “Songs in A Minor.”
Although nothing else is said in the interview about Keys nearly being aborted, if you go to the indispensable “Song Facts,” you learn that “Fallin” was “about the emotions that occur when you care very deeply for a person. Keys was going through a turbulent relationship when she wrote it, which inspired the song,” a “case of young love.”
But also this:
According to Keys, her mother, who raised her on her own (her dad split when she was two years old), helped inspire this song. Her mom could drive Alicia crazy at times, but her love for her was unwavering.
The focus on the CBS Sunday Morning News interview is Keys’ journey to find herself. As Smith wrote
But even as she was rocketing to new heights of fame, the private Alicia Keys was struggling with some lingering doubts: about what she was doing, why she was doing it, and even who she was.
“Self-discovery” is a journey we may choose to embrace, avoid, or finesse. But is only because of the courage of Terry Augello that Alicia Keys has the luxury of attempting to learn who she is, why she is, and to entertain tens of millions of fans around the world in the process.
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