The daughter of former concert promoter Sue Jones and legendary Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, Norah was raised by her mother in Grapevine, Texas, and began singing in church choirs at age 5. She saw her father a few times a year until she was 9, then reconnected with him when she was 18. At 13 she moved with her mother to Dallas and enrolled in Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts—the school that soul singer Erykah Badu and trumpeter Roy Hargrove once attended. Her first real gig was on her 16th birthday at an open mike night in a Dallas coffee shop, where she performed "I'll Be Seeing You," a song made famous by Billie Holiday.
After high school, Norah began studying music at the University of North Texas. But in the summer of 1999, when a songwriter friend offered her a sublet in Greenwich Village, she headed north and never returned home. She was scraping together a living in New York when Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall signed her to his label in 2001. Two years later, she tied with Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys for the most Grammy wins by a female artist in a single night.
When Norah and I part, I tell her the same thing Quincy Jones told me after we'd finished filming The Color Purple : "Your future is so bright that it's going to burn your eyes!" The energy and vitality Norah brings to a room, the spirit of truth in her lyrics, and the bold stands she takes to define herself as a musician all give her an authenticity that can't be faked.
Start reading Oprah's interview with Norah Jones
Note: This interview appeared in the July 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.