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Norah Jones (born Geetali Norah Jones Shankar; March 30, 1979) is an American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress. She is the daughter of Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar and Sue Jones. She is also Anoushka Shankar's half-sister.
In 2002, she launched her solo music career with the release of the commercially successful and critically acclaimed album Come Away with Me, a fusion of country music and pop with elements of jazz which was certified diamond album, selling over 26 million copies. The record earned Jones five Grammy Awards, including the Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist. Her subsequent studio albums, Feels Like Home, released in 2004, Not Too Late, released in 2007, the same year she made her film debut in My Blueberry Nights, and her 2009 release The Fall all gained Platinum status, selling over a million copies and were generally well received by critics. Jones' fifth studio album, Little Broken Hearts, was released on April 27, 2012.
Jones has won nine Grammy Awards and was 60th on Billboard magazine's artists of the 2000–2009 decade chart. Throughout her career, Jones has won numerous awards and has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide. Billboard named her the top jazz artist of the 2000–2009 decade.
Jones was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York, to Indian sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar and American concert producer Sue Jones. After her parents' separation in 1986, Jones spent her childhood with her mother in Grapevine, Texas. She attended Colleyville Middle School and Grapevine High School before transferring to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. While in high school, Jones sang in the school choir, participated in band and played the alto saxophone. At the age of sixteen, with her parents' consent, she officially changed her name to Norah Jones.
Jones always had an affinity for the music of Bill Evans and Billie Holiday, among other "oldies". She once said, "My mom had this eight-album Billie Holiday set; I picked out one disc that I liked and played that over and over again."
Jones began singing in church choirs and took piano lessons as a child. She still attends church. She considers herself spiritual and appreciates the rituals of her church but does not consider herself deeply religious.
She attended Interlochen Center for the Arts during the summers. While at high school, she won the DownBeat Student Music Awards for Best Jazz Vocalist (twice, in 1996 and 1997) and Best Original Composition (1996).
Jones attended the University of North Texas (UNT), where she majored in jazz piano and sang with the UNT Jazz Singers. During this time, she had a chance meeting with future collaborator Jesse Harris. She gave a ride to a band playing at the university whose members happened to be friends of Harris. He was on a cross-country road-trip with friend and future Little Willies member, Richard Julian, and stopped to see the band play. After meeting Jones, Harris started sending her lead sheets of his songs. In 1999, she left for New York City. Less than a year later, she started a band with Harris, which made her famous.
Jones moved to New York City and signed to Blue Note Records, a label owned by EMI Group. The signing came as an indirect result of Jones performing background vocals for singer-songwriter Victoria Williams. Shell White, the wife of Williams' producer JC Hopkins, worked in Blue Note's royalties department and passed Jones's three-track demo on to the label's president Bruce Lundvall and its A&R Brian Bacchus. The demo featured two jazz standards and a song by Jesse Harris. Lundvall and Bacchus immediately agreed Jones had great potential and although initially unsure about what direction her music would follow, particularly since Blue Note was a jazz label, they nevertheless decided to sign Jones. Bacchus told HitQuarters: "We let her find her own direction.... We knew that if she could develop her songwriting and we could find great songs, it would work."
Jones was first teamed up with experienced producer and engineer Jay Newland. Bacchus thought that Newland's experience in jazz, blues, rock, country and folk would give him a "feeling for her sound." Together they cut around nine demo tracks, of which six formed her debut Blue Note release, the sampler First Sessions, while the rest were set aside for her debut album. First Sessions was released in 2001.
Jones was a lounge singer before becoming a recording artist. Prior to releasing her first album, she performed with Wax Poetic, Peter Malick and jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter.
Released in February 2002, Jones's debut album, Come Away with Me, was celebrated for its blending of mellow, acoustic pop with soul and jazz. Debuting at No. 139, it reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The single "Don't Know Why" hit No. 1 on the Top 40 Adult Recurrents in 2003 and No. 30 in the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart.
In 2003, she won five Grammy Awards: Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for the album and Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single "Don't Know Why" at the 45th Grammy Awards. This matched the record for most Grammy wins by a female artist in a single night (tying with Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys). That night, Jesse Harris won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for composing "Don't Know Why", Arif Mardin won Producer of the Year, primarily for his work on Come Away With Me, and the album also received the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
The album received platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America on August 22, 2002, and went on to become a diamond album on February 15, 2005. It remains Blue Note's biggest-selling album.
Jones released her second album, Feels Like Home, on February 9, 2004. It was influenced by country music. Within a week of its release, Feels Like Home had sold over a million copies. It sold 4 million copies in the United States and reached quadruple Platinum status, and sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. Jones toured globally, promoting the album with the Handsome Band, and backing singer Daru Oda.
Time magazine included Jones on the Time 100, a list of the most influential people of 2004. The album debuted at No. 1 in at least 16 countries around the world.
In 2005, at the 47th Grammy Awards, Feels Like Home was nominated for three Grammys. It won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Sunrise", and had nominations for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for her duet with Dolly Parton, "Creepin' In".
She won two more Grammy Awards that year, for Record of the Year and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for her collaboration with Ray Charles, "Here We Go Again", the first track on Charles' last album, Genius Loves Company. That album won the Album of the Year award.
Jones released her third album, Not Too Late, on January 30, 2007. The album was her first for which she wrote or co-wrote every song, and according to her, some of them are much darker than those on her previous albums. Not Too Late was mostly recorded at Jones's home studio and is her first album without producer Arif Mardin, who had died in the summer of 2006. Jones described the sessions as "fun, relaxed and easy" and without a deadline; Blue Note executives reportedly did not know she was recording an album. The song "My Dear Country" is political commentary; she wrote it before the United States Presidential election day in 2004.
Not Too Late reached the No. 1 position in twenty countries. Not Too Late had the third-best first week of sales in 2007, behind Avril Lavigne's The Best Damn Thing and Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight. It reached No. 1 in the U.S., selling 405,000 copies. EMI announced that Not Too Late reached gold, platinum or multi-platinum in 21 countries as of February 2007. The album has sold 4 million copies worldwide. That same year she sang "American Anthem" for the Ken Burns documentary The War.
By 2007, Jones had sold over 36 million albums worldwide.
Jones made her film debut in 2007 in the romance/drama film My Blueberry Nights, directed by Wong Kar Wai, co-starring Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman. Jones as Elizabeth is a young woman who goes on a soul-searching journey across the USA to resolve her questions about love, and finds along the way a series of curious characters. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007 and United States in April 2008. It went on to gross more than US$21,967,587 worldwide.
Jones's fourth studio album, The Fall, debuted at No. 3 in November 2009, selling 180,000 copies in its first week. It was Jones's first album to not reach No. 1 in the United States. The album received critical acclaim. As part of the promotional drive for the album, she performed on Dancing with the Stars, Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America and other television programs.
The Fall featured a Saint Bernard named Ben on the cover.
The album's lead single, "Chasing Pirates", peaked at No. 13 on Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks and No. 7 on Jazz Songs.
Billboard's 2000–2009 decade awards ranked her as the top jazz recording artist, at No. 60 best Artist. Come Away With Me was elected the No. 4 album and No. 1 jazz album. Jones earned a platinum certification by the RIAA for sales of 1 million copies of The Fall. The album sold 1.5 million copies worldwide and was certified gold or platinum in 14 countries as of 2010. "Baby, It's Cold Outside", a duet with Willie Nelson, was nominated in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.
Her fourth world tour began March 5, 2010.
Jones released ...Featuring, a compilation album of collaborations she has done with well-known musicians, including the Foo Fighters, Willie Nelson, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Outkast, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Belle and Sebastian, Ray Charles, Ryan Adams, Dolly Parton, Herbie Hancock, M. Ward, and others. Jones said, “It's so exciting and flattering and fun when I get asked to sing with somebody that I admire.... It takes you a little bit out of your comfort zone when you're doing something with another artist. You don't know what to expect—it's kind of like being a little kid and having a playdate.” The 18-track Blue Note disc was released on November 16, 2010.
Jones recorded a Christmas duet, "Home for the Holidays", with Cyndi Lauper.
After working with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi on some of the tracks of their album Rome, Jones teamed up with Danger Mouse for her fifth studio album, Little Broken Hearts, which was released on May 1, 2012. Jones played the album at SXSW 2012 in its entirety. American Songwriter has referred to Little Broken Hearts as the "most dramatic and rewarding departure she’s made in her career."
On May 25, 2012, Norah Jones kicked off her fifth world tour in Paris. Her tour includes stops in Europe, North America, Asia, South America, and Australia.
Norah Jones performed in London at the Roundhouse on Monday, September 10, 2012, as part of the iTunes Festival lineup. The concert was broadcast live over the internet.
In September 2012, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book.
Jones and jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter covered the Roxy Music song "More Than This" for Hunter's 2001 album Songs from the Analog Playground.
Jones made a cameo appearance as herself in the 2002 movie Two Weeks Notice, which starred Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock. The film shows her briefly at the piano, singing for a charity benefit.
Jones appears on the track "Ruler of My Heart" (a cover of an Irma Thomas song), on the 2002 Dirty Dozen Brass Band album Medicated Magic.
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."
Norah Jones and the Peter Malick Group released an album, New York City, in July 2003.
Jones appeared on OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album, on "Take Off Your Cool". This album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year (Jones was not credited).
Jones appeared in the 2004 special Sesame Street Presents: The Street We Live On. Jones appeared in the concert and DVD Return to Sin City - A Tribute to Gram Parsons. Norah performed the song "She" and then, together with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, sang "Love Hurts".
Jones appeared on Ray Charles' final album, Genius Loves Company, in 2004, on "Here We Go Again".
Jones performed "Love Me Tender" for the soundtrack to The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, a film released in 2004.
Jones formed The Little Willies in 2003 alongside Richard Julian on vocals, Jim Campilongo on guitar, Lee Alexander on bass, and Dan Rieser on drums. The alt country band released its eponymous first album in 2006 and "For the Good Times" in 2012.
Jones has done three Grammy-nominated duets with Willie Nelson: "Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want To Get Over You)" in 2003, "Dreams Come True" in 2005 and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in 2009.
In 2005, Jones appeared on the Foo Fighters' album In Your Honor, performing piano and vocals on the song "Virginia Moon". The track was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, in 2006.
Jones appeared on Ryan Adams' & The Cardinals' 2005 album, Jacksonville City Nights, on the track "Dear John", which she co-wrote with Adams.
Jones worked with Mike Patton in 2006 providing vocals on the track "Sucker" on the Peeping Tom project. The song attracted attention as it was the first time Jones used profanity in a recording.
In 2007, Jones made her acting debut as the protagonist in a film directed by Wong Kar-wai. The film, My Blueberry Nights, opened for the 2007 Cannes Film Festival as one of the 22 films in competition. She wrote and performed a song, "The Story", for the movie.
In January 2007, Jones recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road. The episode, on which John Mayer and Richard Ashcroft also appeared, was aired on UK Channel 4 and on the Sundance Channel. She appeared twice on the PBS series Austin City Limits, on November 2, 2002, and October 6, 2007. The latter appearance was the season opener.
In a change of direction predating The Fall, Jones (referring to herself as "Maddie" and virtually anonymous in a blond wig) sang and played guitar with rock band El Madmo. The band consists of Jones, Daru Oda and Richard Julian and released an eponymous album on May 20, 2007.
Jones appears in Herbie Hancock's 2007 release River: The Joni Letters singing the first track, "Court and Spark". This album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 50th Grammy Awards in 2008; Jones was credited as a featured artist, her ninth Grammy win.
Jones appeared on the comedy track "Dreamgirl", on the 2009 debut album from The Lonely Island, Incredibad (featuring SNL performer Andy Samberg).
In 2008, Jones made another appearance in hip hop with an appearance on a track named "Life Is Better", on the critically acclaimed album The Renaissance by rapper Q-tip.
In 2009, Jones made a cameo appearance in the independent film Wah Do Dem, co-starring Sean Bones and written by Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner.
Jones was a judge for the 5th annual Independent Music Awards, supporting independent artists' careers.
In 2010, Jones contributed "World of Trouble" to the Enough Project and Downtown Records' Raise Hope for Congo compilation. Proceeds from the compilation fund efforts to make the protection and empowerment of Congo’s women a priority, as well as inspire individuals around the world to raise their voice for peace in Congo.
For the documentary Wretchers and Jabbers, Jones contributed a song to the soundtrack, "A Change is Gonna Come".
In 2011, Jones provided vocals to the songs "Season's Trees", "Black" and "Problem Queen" on the album Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi.
Jones collaborated with "Family Guy" celebrity Seth MacFarlane on his Grammy-nominated 2011 debut studio album Music Is Better Than Words on the song "Two Sleepy People". Jones also had a cameo appearance in MacFarlane's 2012 feature film Ted. Additionally for the film, she collaborated with Seth MacFarlane on the song "Everybody Needs A Best Friend", recorded on the motion picture soundtrack album and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In 2011, Jones appeared on Duets II by Tony Bennett on the track "Speak Low".
Jones sang "It Came Upon Midnight Clear", "Silent Night" and "Pooping Log (Caga Tió)" on the Holiday Special 2011 of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
Jones also played piano and vocals on numerous tracks on Ryan Adams' 2011 studio album Ashes & Fire.
Jones is one of the participants in the so-called "Hank Williams Project" overseen by Bob Dylan, and reportedly including contributions from Willie Nelson, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, and Alan Jackson. On March 31, 2008, Jones commemorated the 10th anniversary of The Living Room with a midnight performance at the intimate Manhattan music venue where the singer got her start. She played a new song entitled "How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart" and explained that it originated from newly-found Hank Williams lyrics she was asked to put to music. Jones also performed the song in late 2008 on Elvis Costello's talk/music television series, Spectacle: Elvis Costello with...
Throughout 2002 and 2003, Jones appeared on stages globally, on her first tour with the Handsome Band, travelling throughout Asia, America, Europe and Oceania, with numerous sold-out concerts and critical acclaim. Jones tour to promote her third album, Not Too Late, began in Wallingford, Connecticut, on April 13, 2007, and featured a free concert in New York City on July 6, 2007. The European phase began on July 9, 2007, in Paris, concluding in Reykjavík, Iceland on September 2, 2007. Jones and band play typically several album hits, modified with guitar solos and additional percussion. Additionally, shows may also feature several covers of country, jazz, blues, or folk songs, ranging from the ubiquitous to the obscure. Artists covered have included, among others, Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Randy Newman, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Tom Waits, and Townes Van Zandt
Jones worked with Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, for her 2007 summer tour. She also performed at Bryant Park on July 6 as part of Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series.
Her 2012/2013 Little Broken Hearts Tour has stops, for the first time, in several South America nations and India.
Jones was in a long-term relationship with the bassist Lee Alexander from 2000 until their breakup in December 2007. The lyrics of her subsequent album, The Fall, supposedly reflect elements of the relationship.
After a period of estrangement from her father, Ravi Shankar, Jones traveled to New Delhi, India, to spend time with him, and wrote some of the material which made its way onto the album The Fall.
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Image from Discogs