Adele was born in north London, England, on May 5, 1988. A huge fan of Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald as a child, Adele was a music fiend beginning at the age of 3. She attended the BRIT School, a free school for the performing arts. Her first two albums, 19 and 21, earned her critical success and a level of commercial viability on par with the Beatles and Bob Marley.
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was born on May 5, 1988, in North London, England. She was the only child of Penny Adkins, an "arty mom" who was just 18 at the time of her birth, and a Welsh father, Mark, who left the family when Adele was only 4 years old.
Mark, who never married Penny, remained in contact with his daughter up until her teen years, when his problems with alcohol, and increasing estrangement from his daughter, caused their relationship to deteriorate. By contrast, Adele grew close to her mom, who encouraged her young daughter "to explore, and not to stick with one thing."
Early on, Adele developed a passion for music. She gravitated toward the songs of Lauryn Hill, Destiny's Child and Mary J. Blige. But her true, eye-opening moment came when she was 15, and she happened upon a collection of Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald records at a local junk shop. "There was no musical heritage in our family," Adele told The Telegraph in a 2008 interview. "Chart music was all I ever knew. So when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the 40s."
While clearly bright, Adele wasn't a match for regular classroom work. Instead, her mother enrolled her in the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, which counts Amy Winehouse as an alum.
While at school, Adele cut a three-track demo for a class project, which was eventually posted on her MySpace page. When executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, they contacted the singer and, in November 2006, just four months after Adele had graduated school, signed her to a record deal.
Adele's debut album, 19, which is named for the singer's age when she began recording it, hit record stores in early 2008. Led by two popular lead singles, "Hometown Glory" and "Chasing Pavements," the record rocketed Adele to fame.
Released in the United States through Columbia Records, 19 resonated with American audiences, much like it had with British music listeners. Adele cemented her commercial success with an appearance in October 2008 on Saturday Night Live. At the taping of the show, the album was ranked No. 40 on iTunes. Less than 24 hours later, it was No. 1.
At the 2009 Grammy awards, Adele took home Best New Artist. In addition, the album earned the singer the distinction of being named the "Sound of 2008" by the BBC. That same year, she earned the Critics' Choice prize at the BRIT Awards.
Her much anticipated follow-up album, 21, again named for her age when she recorded it, did not disappoint upon its release in early 2011. Tapping even deeper into Adele's appreciation for classic American R&B and jazz, the record was a monster hit, selling 352,000 copies within its first week.
Anchored by hits like "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You," 21 placed Adele in rarified air. In February 2011, she found herself with two top-five singles and a pair of top-five albums in the same week, the first artist since the Beatles in 1964 to achieve that milestone. Adele also broke the solo female artist record for staying at No. 1 for 11 weeks.
In 2012, Adele swept the Grammy Awards, taking home six wins, including Album of the Year. "This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone's been through it—just a rubbish relationship," she said at the Grammy ceremony. In 2013, Adele won her seventh Grammy (best pop solo performance) for her hit single "Set Fire to the Rain." That same year, the singer won an Academy Award for best original song for "Skyfall," the theme song for the 2013 James Bond film of the same name. She also won a Golden Globe Award for the song.
Coupled with the success is Adele's own maturity and ability to avoid the same kind of fame-induced pitfalls that plagued the late Amy Winehouse. Adele, whose larger, curvier body bucks the trend of most Top 40 celebs, is also supremely confident not just in her talent, but also in her looks. "I've seen people where it rules their lives, you know, who want to be thinner or have bigger boobs, and how it wears them down," she told Vogue magazine in 2011. "And I just don't want that in my life."
On June 29, 2012, Adele announced on her website that she was pregnant with her first child. The baby's father is Adele's boyfriend, Simon Konecki. Adele recently spoke to People magazine on being a mother: "I really want to be a mum. I better start getting on with it!" she said, adding that she wants to have three sons by the time she's 30.