Kate's Notes

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Norah Jones

Norah Jones

Norah Jones (born March 30, 1979) became a recording industry darling when she swept the 2003 Grammy Awards and took home eight awards, including Album of the Year, for her debut album, Come Away With Me – a contemporary pop album with a sensual, plaintive soul/folk/country tinge, which sold over twenty million copies worldwide. Following the monumental success of her first album, her 2004 sophomore release, Feels like Home, garnered more than a million sales in the first week.

In 2007, she released her third album, Not Too Late, which hit at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While Jones is best-known for her sultry-yet-powerful vocal style, often compared to that of Billie Holiday or Nina Simone, her abilities as a jazz pianist have likewise been celebrated; and in the near future her acting ability will be celebrated as well, when she joins Jude Law, Tim Roth and Natalie Portman for the film, My Blueberry Nights set to be released in October of 2007.

Early Life

Born Geetali Norah Jones Shankar in New York City, New York, to a musical family (her father Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and Jones’s half-sister is musician Anoushka Shankar, Ravi Shankar's daughter from his second marriage) Jones spent her childhood with her mother, Sue Jones. They moved to Dallas, Texas, when Jones was only four. She went onto attend Interlochen Arts Camp, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas. Jones always had an intrinsic love for music; a fan of Bill Evans and Billie Holiday among others from the 'oldies' section since she was a child, and also considers Willie Nelson as her idol, Jones has been quoted as saying, "My mom had this eight-album Billie Holiday set, I picked out one disc that I liked and played that over and over again."

From a young age, Jones began singing in church choirs, taking piano lessons, and even briefly trying out the alto saxophone. While in high school, she won the DownBeat Student Music Awards for Best Jazz Vocalist (twice, in 1996 and 1997) and Best Original Composition (1996). She then joined the University of North Texas, where she majored in jazz piano. In 1999, two years into the program, Jones left for New York City. It was at this time when she met and became romantically involved with bassist Lee Alexander.

Music Career: The Beginning

Jones’s trip to New York was supposed to be simply a summer stay; however, Jones soon realized that she would not be returning home for quite some time.

Engrossed in the music scene, Jones gravitated toward local musicians and songwriters who urged her, after seeing her sing, to jump-start her own career. In between jobs as a waitress, Jones soon started a band in which she sung lead vocals and, of course, played piano. In October 2000, the band ambitiously brought a demo to EMI Blue Note Records, whose roster boasts a host of blues, jazz, folk, and country musicians.

At a meeting with Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall in January 2001, Jones played her three-song tape, hoping to earn a break. Lundvall was so impressed with this young girl's talents that he signed her on the spot.

Come Away with Me: 2002 – 2004

Her first album, Come Away with Me, debuted in February 2002. Instantly celebrated by critics for its blending of mellow, acoustic pop with soul and country, it hit #1 on the United States Billboard 200, while the single for the album, "Don't Know Why," hit #4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and #30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Come Away with Me was heavily nominated for the Grammy Awards of 2003. By receiving Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist honors all in 2003, she became only the second person to win the "Big Four" of the Grammies in one year (the other being Christopher Cross in 1979). Of the eight awards for Come Away with Me, Jones personally received five, with the other three attributed to the album itself. "Don't Know Why" was also performed on an episode of "Sesame Street," in which Jones changed the lyrics to "Don't know why Y didn't come," and thereby introduced the letter Y to the young audience. She said of her Grammy winning experience, "I felt like I went to somebody else's birthday party and I ate all their cake without anybody else getting a piece,” when asked by Katie Couric how she felt after sweeping the Grammy Awards in 2003.

Throughout 2002 and 2003, Jones appeared on stages, globally, for her first tour with the Handsome Band, traveling throughout Asia, America, Europe and Australia. The tour was received with numerous sell-out concerts and positive critical acclaim.

Feels like Home: 2004 - 2006

Released on February 9, 2004, her sophmore album entitled Feels like Home deviated from the softer, jazz mood that Come Away with Me fans were used to, and took on a more country music feel. That did not stop the album from becoming extremely successful, and within a week of its release, Feels like Home had sold over a million copies, making it the highest-selling album in the history of Blue Note Records. It hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 23, 2004, and its single, “Sunrise,” hit #26 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 2004.

Jones received three awards at the Grammy Awards of 2005, including Record of the Year and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for her collaboration with Ray Charles on the song "Here We Go Again." She personally earned her eighth Grammy (and eleventh overall) for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her song "Sunrise." That year, Jones also appeared on the self-titled record by Amos Lee.

Jones toured globally again, to promote the album with the Handsome Band, and the addition of backing singer Daru Oda. She was also listed in Time magazine as one of the most influential people of 2004.

Not Too Late: 2007 – Present

Her third album, Not Too Late, was released by Blue Note Records on January 30, 2007, to both critical and public acclaim. It has become the 800th album to reach the top spot in the United Kingdom charts. On February 11th, 2007, Jones appeared on “60 Minutes” for an interview with Katie Couric. During the interview she claimed that this album was different because unlike its predecessors, and that she wrote every song on the album herself with her bassist and songwriting partner, Lee Alexander. She also said that because she wrote all the songs, some are much darker than the previous albums. The song "My Dear Country" is a political satire, she wrote it before the United States Presidential Election Day in 2004. As of February 2007, Not Too Late held the title of #1 most listened to album on Rhapsody Music Service. The album sold more then 2.2 million copies in 3 weeks.

The first single released from Not Too Late was entitled, “Thinking About You.” It peaked at #82 in the Billboard 100 and earned its highest chart ranking in Italy at #5.

Acting Opportunities

Jones made a cameo appearance in the 2002 film, Two Weeks Notice with Sandra Bullock, and Hugh Grant; her scene shows her briefly at the piano, singing at a charity benefit.

In the latter part of 2003, rumors emerged that veteran Indian filmmaker Dev Anand was planning to make the film Song of Life, inspired by Jones's troubled relationship with her father, Ravi Shankar. Both Jones and Shankar were enraged by the rumors; Jones commented, "[Anand] has no idea of our story, and he's not going to represent it in a truthful way, I'm sure. It's sad because it's personal stuff and nobody's business but ours."

In February 2006, Screen International reported that Jones would make her acting debut in a film by 2046 and Chungking Express director Wong Kar-wai. The film called My Blueberry Nights, with Jude Law, Tim Roth and Natalie Portman, would be Wong Kai-wai's English language debut and will be partly funded by StudioCanal and Jet Tone Productions.


The Little Willies

The Little Willies is a band formed in 2003. It features Jones on piano and vocals. The other members of the band are Richard Julian on vocals, Jim Campilongo on guitar, Lee Alexander on bass and Dan Rieser on percussion.

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

Jones sang lead vocals with Ryan Adams in the song "Dear John" which is on the album "Jacksonville City Nights" by Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, released September 27th, 2005.

Foo Fighters

Jones also collaborated with Foo Fighters on their 2005 record, In Your Honor, singing vocals with Dave Grohl on "Virginia Moon." The song was nominated for a Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2006.

Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom is an experimental collaboration album by Mike Patton released in 2006. Jones collaborated on the album, appearing on track 10 "Sucker."

El Madmo

On May 12, 2006, Jones (disguised in a blonde wig, heavy make-up, fishnets and short shorts) played guitar and sang vocals in the tongue-in-cheek punk band El Madmo. They opened for the band Pela. The band consists of "El" (Handsome Band's Daru Oda), "Maddie" (Norah Jones) and "Mo."

Musical Style

Jones was a lounge singer before becoming a recording artist. Jones played with numerous artists and bands including Wax Poetic and the Peter Malick Group. Jones performed quite frequently with guitarist Charlie Hunter in 2001 and appeared on Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album in a duet with André 3000 in 2003. While Jones is best-known for her sultry-yet-powerful vocal style, often compared to that of Billie Holiday or Nina Simone, her abilities as a jazz pianist have likewise been celebrated. On January 19, 2003, Jones appeared as a guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on NPR, performing jazz standards such as "September in the Rain" and "I Can't Get Started," and later that year she appeared again with McPartland at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, performing more standards such as "Lover Man" and "Walking My Baby Back Home." She has performed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in both 2004 and 2005.

Personal Life

Currently, her boyfriend is her bassist Lee Alexander.

Charity Work and Activism

In September of 2004, Wyclef Jean and Jones recorded a charity song for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The song’s lyrics were written by both Jean and Jones, from the perspective of a victim seeking for a shelter. The ballad, “Any Other Day” was available for downloads through MSN Music at the price of 99 cents and all proceeds was donated to the American Red Cross and AmeriCare for Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief.


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