She defined the '80s with her understated anthem, 'Smooth Operator'. And in real life, she seems to embody that title track, coming out of retirement whenever she pleases to lay down some more solid gold.

Helen Folasade Adu was born in Nigeria after her parents Adebisi Adu, a lecturer of economics, and Anne Hayes, a district nurse, met and wed in London before returning to Adu's home nation.

After their marriage failed when Sade was aged four, Anne moved the family back to England. At the age of 18 after completing school, she moved to London to study at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

While at college, she joined soul band 'Pride' singing backing vocals. However, her solo performance of 'Smooth Operator' went down well with record companies, with Epic signing the singer and three members of the band in 1983.

Sade released her first album 'Diamond Life' in 1984 at a time when she was squatting with then-boyfriend style journalist Robert Elms. Her first single 'Your Love is King' proved a hit in February 1984 and magazines strived to make her their cover star – unusual for the known reclusive singer.

This successful debut was followed by 'Promise' in 1985 and 'Stronger than Pride' in 1988. She spent the majority of the 1980s touring with her albums. In 1989 she married Spanish film maker Carlos Pliego but they divorced in 1995.

She retired again, this time to London, where she turned her house into a recording studio. Her 1992 album, 'Love Deluxe', contained the hit, 'No Ordinary Love', which was featured on the 'Indecent Proposal' soundtrack. Yet another tour followed.

In 1997 the singer was arrested in Jamaica following a traffic dispute with local police and fled the country, threatened with arrest if she ever returns.

She followed up with another smash hit, 'Lovers Rock' in 2000, and recorded 'Lovers Live' in 2002. She then received an OBE from the queen in 2002.

During this time, she devoted herself to motherhood after giving birth to her daughter Ila Adu in 1995 after a relationship with a Jamaican musician.

She also relocated from London to the Gloucestershire countryside and decided to reconvene her band in 2008 to record the 2010 album 'Soldier of Love'.

Sade has said about her work: "I only make records when I feel I have something to say. I'm not interested in releasing music just for the sake of selling something. Sade is not a brand."