John Roger Stephens (born December 28, 1978), known professionally as John Legend, is an American singer, songwriter, musician and actor. He has won ten Grammy Awards, one Golden Globe Award, and one Academy Award. In 2007, Legend received the Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Prior to the release of Legend's debut album, his career gained momentum through a series of successful collaborations with already established artists. At various points in his career, Legend has sung in Magnetic Man's "Getting Nowhere," Kanye West's "All of the Lights," on Slum Village's "Selfish," and Dilated Peoples' "This Way". Other collaborative appearances include Jay Z's "Encore", backing vocals on Alicia Keys' 2003 song "You Don't Know My Name," the Kanye West remix of Britney Spears' "Me Against the Music," and Fort Minor's "High Road". Legend played piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything". For his solo work, he earned a Billboard Hot 100 number-one single with "All of Me" in 2013. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2015 for writing the song "Glory" from the film Selma.
Legend was born on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. He is one of four children of Phyllis Elaine (née Lloyd), a seamstress, and Ronald Lamar Stephens, a factory worker and former National Guardsman. Throughout his childhood, Legend was homeschooled on and off by his mother. At the age of four, he performed with his church choir. He began playing the piano at age seven. At the age of twelve, Legend attended North High School, from which he graduated salutatorian of his class four years later. According to Legend, he was offered admission to Harvard University and scholarships to Georgetown University and Morehouse College. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied English with an emphasis on African-American literature.
While in college, Legend served as president and musical director of a co-ed jazz and pop a cappella group called Counterparts. His lead vocals on the group's recording of Joan Osborne's "One of Us" received critical acclaim landing the song on the track list of the 1998 Best of Collegiate a Cappella compilation CD. Legend was also a member of the prestigious senior societies Sphinx Senior Society and Onyx Senior Honor Society while an undergraduate at Penn. While in college, Legend was introduced to Lauryn Hill by a friend. Hill hired him to play piano on "Everything Is Everything", a song from her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
During this period, he began to hold a number of shows around Philadelphia, eventually expanding his audience base to New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. He graduated college in 1999, and thereafter began producing, writing, and recording his own music. He released two albums independently; his self-titled demo (2000) and Live at Jimmy's Uptown (2001), which he sold at his shows. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Legend began working as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. He subsequently began working on his demo and began sending his work to various record labels.
In 2001, Devo Springsteen introduced Legend to then up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West; Legend was hired to sing during the hooks of West's music. After signing to West's label, he chose his stage name from an idea that was given to him by poet J. Ivy, due to what he perceived as an "old-school sound". J. Ivy stated, "I heard your music and it reminds me of that music from the old school. You sound like one of the legends. As a matter of fact, that's what I'm going to call you from now on! I'm going to call you John Legend." After J. Ivy continued to call him by the new moniker "John Legend," others quickly caught on, including Kanye West. Despite Legend's reluctance to change his stage name, he eventually announced his new artist name as John Legend.
Legend released his debut album, Get Lifted, on GOOD Music in December 2004. It featured production by Kanye West, Dave Tozer, and will.i.am, and debuted at number 7 on the US Billboard 200, selling 116,000 copies in its first week. It went on to sell 540,300 copies in the United States and was certified gold by the RIAA. An international success, Get Lifted also reached number one of the Norwegian Albums Chart and peaked within the top ten in the Netherlands and Sweden, resulting in worldwide sales of 850,000 copies. Critically acclaimed, it won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, and earned Legend another two nominal awards for Best New Artist and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Altogether, the album produced four singles, including debut single "Used to Love U," which entered the top 30 of the New Zealand and UK Singles Chart, and Grammy Award-winning "Ordinary People" which peaked at 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. John Legend also co-wrote Janet Jackson's "I Want You", which was certified platinum and received a nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards.
A highly sought after collaborator, Legend was featured on several records the following years. He appeared on albums by Fort Minor, Sérgio Mendes, Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, The Black Eyed Peas, Stephen Colbert, Rich Boy, MSTRKRFT, Chemistry, and Fergie, among others. Legend also tentatively worked with Michael Jackson on a future album for which he had written one song. In August 2006, Legend appeared in an episode of Sesame Street. He performed a song entitled "It Feels Good When You Sing a Song", a duet with Hoots the Owl. He also performed during the pregame show of Super Bowl XL in Detroit and the halftime show at the 2006 NBA All-Star Game.
In October 2006, Legend's second album, Once Again, was released. Legend co-wrote and co-produced the bulk of the album, which saw him reteaming with West and will.i.am but also spawned production from Raphael Saadiq, Craig Street, Sa-Ra, Eric Hudson, Devo Springsteen, Dave Tozer and Avenue. Released to major commercial success, it reached number three on the Billboard 200 and debuted on top of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA, and reached gold status in Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. At the 2007 Grammy Awards ceremony, the song "Heaven" was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, while lead single "Save Room" received a nod in the Best Male Pop Vocal category. Legend won a second Grammy that year for "Family Affair," a collaboration with Sly & The Family Stone, Joss Stone and Van Hunt, for the former's Different Strokes by Different Folks album.
In January 2008, Legend sang in a video for Barack Obama, produced by will.i.am called "Yes We Can". The same year, Legend had a supporting, singing-only role in the 2008 movie Soul Men, where he plays the deceased lead singer of a fictitious soul group that includes Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac. In October, he released his third studio album, Evolver. Speaking about the reasons for calling the album Evolver, he stated: "I think people sometimes come to expect certain things from certain artists. They expect you to kind of stay in the same place you were at when you started out. Whereas I feel I want my career to be defined by the fact that I'm NOT gonna stay in the same place, and that I'm always gonna try new things and experiment. So, as I think this album represents a manifestation of that, I came up with the title 'Evolver'." The album was preceded by dance-pop-influenced uptempo single "Green Light" which featured rapper Andre 3000 of OutKast and became his highest-charting single since "Ordinary People"; it was also released for the Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
In 2009, Legend performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Also in 2009, Legend and The Roots teamed up to record a collaborative album, Wake Up!, which was released on September 21, 2010. The first single released from the album was "Wake Up Everybody" featuring singer Melanie Fiona and rapper Common. In February 2011, Legend won three prizes at the 53rd Annual Grammy Music Awards. He was awarded Best R&B Song for "Shine", while he and The Roots won Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for "Hang On in There". In March 2011, Legend and The Roots won two NAACP Image Awards – one for Outstanding Album (Wake Up!) and one for Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration.
On July 5, 2011, songwriter Anthony Stokes filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against John Legend in United States District Court, in the District of New Jersey, alleging that Legend's song "Maxine's Interlude" from his 2006 album Once Again derives from Stokes' demo "Where Are You Now". Stokes claimed he gave Legend a demo of the song in 2004 following a concert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Legend denied the allegations, telling E! Online, "I never heard of his song until he sued me. I would never steal anyone's song. We will fight it in court and we will prevail." However, nearly 60,000 people took a TMZ.com poll that compared the two songs and 65% of voters believed that Legend's "Maxine's Interlude" is a rip-off of Stokes' "Where Are You Now". A year later, Legend confirmed that he settled the lawsuit with Stokes for an undisclosed amount.
Also in 2011, Legend completed a 50-date tour as a guest for British soul band Sade. In the San Diego stop, Legend confirmed that he is working on his next studio album and played a new song called "Dreams". Later, via his official website, he revealed the official title of the album to be Love in the Future, and debuted part of a new track called "Caught Up". The album has been executive-produced by Legend himself, along with Kanye West and Dave Tozer – the same team who worked on Legend's previous albums Get Lifted and Once Again. Legend has stated that his intention for the record was "To make a modern soul album – to flip that classic feel into a modern context."
Legend was granted an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Howard University at the 144th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 12, 2012. Legend was a judge on the ABC music show Duets along with Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Nettles and Robin Thicke. Legend's spot was originally for Lionel Richie but he had to leave the show due to a scheduling conflict. Duets debuted on Thursday, May 24, 2012, at 8/7c.
He released his fourth studio album, Love in the Future, on September 3, 2013, debuting number 4 on the Billboard 200, selling 68,000 copies in its first week. The album was nominated for Best R&B album at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Legend's third single from the album, "All of Me", became an international chart success, peaking the Billboard Hot 100 for three consecutive weeks and reaching the top of six national charts and the top ten in numerous other countries, becoming one of the best-selling digital singles of all time. It was ranked the third best-selling song in the United States and the United Kingdom during 2014. The song is a ballad dedicated to his wife, Chrissy Teigan, and was performed at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.
In 2014, Legend paired with the rapper Common to write the song "Glory", featured in the film Selma, which chronicled the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. The song won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song as well as the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Legend and Common performed "Glory" at the 87th Academy Awards on February 22, 2015.
Legend was featured on Meghan Trainor's "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" from her debut studio album, which reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. On February 1, 2015, he sang "America the Beautiful" in the opening ceremony of Super Bowl XLIX. He provided guest vocals on Kelly Clarkson's song "Run Run Run" for her album Piece by Piece. He also co-wrote and provided vocals for French DJ David Guetta's song "Listen", as part of the album Listen.
John Legend released his new album Darkness and Light, with first single "Love Me Now," on December 2, 2016 with songs featuring Chance the Rapper and Miguel.
Legend performed a benefit concert in Springfield, Ohio in 2005 in support of a tax levy for the Springfield City School District.
In May 2007, Legend partnered with Tide laundry detergent to raise awareness about the need of families in St. Bernard Parish, (Chalmette, Louisiana), one of the most devastated areas hit by Hurricane Katrina; he spent a day folding laundry at the Tide "clean start" mobile laundromat and visited homes that Tide is helping to rebuild in that community. On July 7, 2007, Legend participated in the Live Earth concert in London, performing "Ordinary People". After reading Professor Jeffrey Sachs' book The End of Poverty, Legend started his Show Me Campaign in 2007. In this campaign, Legend called on his fans to help him in his initiative for residents in Bosaso Village, Somalia and non-profit organizations partnered with the campaign. Also in 2007, Legend was the spokesman for GQ Magazine's "Gentlemen's Fund", an initiative to raise support and awareness for five cornerstones essential to men: opportunity, health, education, environment, and justice. In October 2007, Legend became involved with a project sponsored by The Gap, a retail clothing store chain in the United States.
In early 2008, he began touring with Alexus Ruffin and Professor Jeff Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute to promote sustainable development as an achievable goal. Legend joined Sachs as a keynote speaker and performer at the inaugural Millennium Campus Conference. Legend then joined the Board of Advisors of the Millennium Campus Network (MCN), and has aided MCN programs through online support and funding fellowships for MCN summer interns through the Show Me Campaign. In 2009, Legend gave AIDS Service Center NYC permission to remix his song "If You're Out There" to create a music video promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and testing.
On January 22, 2010, he performed "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" on the Hope for Haiti Now telethon show. On September 8, 2010, John Legend joined the national board of Teach For America. Legend also sits on the boards of The Education Equality Project, the Harlem Village Academies, and Stand for Children. He serves on the Harlem Village Academies’ National Leadership Board. On September 9, 2010, he performed "Coming Home" on the Colbert Report as a tribute song for the end of combat operations in Iraq, and for the active troops and the veterans of the United States Armed Forces. In 2011, he contributed the track "Love I've Never Known" to the Red Hot Organization's most recent album Red Hot+Rio 2. The album is a follow-up to the 1996 "Red Hot+Rio." Proceeds from the album sales will be donated to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues. On March 6, 2012, John Legend was appointed by the World Economic Forum to the Forum of Young Global Leaders. Later that year, Legend stopped by Children's Hospital Los Angeles for a surprise visit and acoustic performance as a part of Get Well Soon Tour. On June 1, 2013, Legend performed at Gucci's global concert event in London whose campaign, "Chime For Change", aims to raise awareness of women's issues in education, health and justice. At a press conference before his performance, Legend identified himself as a feminist saying, "All men should be feminists. If men care about women's rights the world will be a better place."
In 2016, Legend co-signed a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon calling for a more humane drug policy, along with people such as Richard Branson, Jane Fonda and George Shultz.
Legend donated $500,000 to Springfield City School District to renovate an auditorium, which is named in his honor, within the Springfield Center of Innovation. He performed at the John Legend Theater on October 9, 2016.
After four years of dating, Legend became engaged to model Chrissy Teigen on December 2011. They married on September 14, 2013, in Como, Italy. In 2016, the couple had a daughter named Luna Simone Stephens.
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