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John Stephens (born December 28, 1978), better known by his stage name John Legend, is an American recording artist, musician and actor. He is the recipient of six Grammy Awards, and in 2007, he received the special Starlight award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Prior to the release of his debut album, Legend's career gained momentum through a series of successful collaborations with multiple established artists. Legend added his voice to those of other artists, assisting in them reaching chart-topper hits. He lent his voice to that of Kanye West, on Slum Village's "Selfish", and Dilated Peoples' "This Way". Other artists included Jay-Z's "Encore", and sang backing vocals on Alicia Keys' 2003 song "You Don't Know My Name" and Fort Minor's "High Road." Legend played piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything".

Life and career

1978–2003: Early life and career beginnings

Legend was born John Stephens on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohiomarker. He is the son of Phyllis, a seamstress, and Ronald, 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 began playing the piano and at the age of seven, he rendered music with his church choir. When he was ten, his parents divorced, causing his mother to suffer a breakdown. At the age of 12, Legend attended North High School, from which he graduated four years later.

Legend was offered scholarships to Harvard Universitymarker, Georgetown Universitymarker and Morehouse Collegemarker. He attended the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, where he studied English with an emphasis on African American literature. While in college, he helmed Counterparts, a co-ed jazz and pop a cappella group as president (1997–1998) and musical director (1998–1999). Legend's lead vocals on the group's recording of Joan Osborne's "One of Us" propelled the song to critical acclaim landing the song on the track list of the 1998 Best of Collegiate a Cappella compilation CD. 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. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Legend began working as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. During this time, he 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 recording 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 a nickname that was given to him by a friend due to Legend's "old-school sound". Legend's vocals can be heard on several tracks including Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name", Jay-Z's "Encore", Kanye West's "Never Let Me Down", Dilated Peoples' "This Way", and Slum Village's "Selfish".

2004–2005: Get Lifted

Legend released his debut album, Get Lifted, in December 2004. It debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200, selling 116,000 copies in its first week. It sold 2.1 million copies in the United States and was certified Platinum by the RIAA; it sold three million copies worldwide. The album produced two singles: "Ordinary People" (US and UK top 30) went straight to number one and "Used to Love U" (US top 100, UKmarker top 30).

2006–2007: Once Again

The first single from his second album, Once Again, was "Save Room". The album was released October 24, 2006, and boasts production from Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq, and In an interview with MTV, Legend said that this album contained his favorite song that he had written to date, entitled "Again." He said he came up with the idea for the song and wrote some of it while sitting on a subway. He stated that the song was also the inspiration for the album's title .

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.

2008–present: Evolver

Legend released his third studio album Evolver, in October 2008. Rapper Andre 3000 of OutKast is featured on the first single of the album on a song titled "Green Light". "It's going to be a surprise for a lot of John Legend fans, because it is a lot more upbeat than John is — than people think John is," Andre insisted. "I was actually happy to hear it. This is a cool John Legend song". The next single from Evolver was confirmed as "Everybody Knows".

Speaking in July 2008 to noted UK R&B writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning "Blues & Soul", Legend explained his reasons for titling the album 'Evolver': "Well 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 tile 'Evolver'."


  • In 2005, he was featured in the Fort Minor song "High Road".
  • In 2006, he is also featured in Sérgio Mendes's collaboration album, Timeless. Legend sang "Please Baby Don't". Additionally, He collaborate with Jay-z (for his Kingdome Come album) for the song "Do U Wanna Ride".
  • In 2007, John lent his vocals for the Rich Boy track "Ghetto Rich".
  • John Legend collaborated with Colombian Rock artist Juanes at the 2008 Latin Grammys. Legend sang in Spanish along with Juanes, on the bilingual version of the song "Si tu estas ahi" also known as "If You Are Out There".
  • He is featured in the Black Eyed Peas song, "Like That". The song "Ordinary People" was originally meant to be for a Black Eyed Peas project, but Legend decided to keep it for himself and recorded the song after he had been signed to Columbia Records.
  • Legend was working with Michael Jackson on a future album. In a Dutch interview with reporter Tom Theunisz he was asked about this collaboration. His response was that he had written one song for the upcoming album, but was unsure about whether Jackson would be using it.
  • Legend also sang "The Girl is Mine" and the national anthem along with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.
  • Legend is featured on the sixth track, "Heartbreaker", of MSTRKRFT's second album Fist of God.
  • He collaborated with Fergie for her song "Finally" on her 2006 debut album "The Dutchess".
  • Legend is featured in T.I.'s song "Slide Show" on his album Paper Trail. A music video for "Slide Show" was released on August 10, 2009, featuring a video collage; it is unknown as of yet, however, if it is an official single.
  • He is also featured in the song "Magnificent" by Rick Ross. The music video has cameo appearances from DJ Khaled saying and wearing "We the Best!!", Birdman, Ace Hood, Triple C's, and Special Ed. It was released on March 3, 2009, and it was directed by music video director Gil Green. It was filmed at Gulfstream Parkmarker Racetrack in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
  • Legend also collaborated with Reggae legend Buju Banton on the track 'Can't Be My Lover'. The track is one of the biggest mixes of R&B and Reggae/Dancehall in years.
  • In 2009, Legend recorded a duet with Brazilian singer Ana Carolina called "Entre Olhares". He sings in English, and she sings in Portuguese.
  • In the Summer of 2009, he record a duet with ex-member of Sin Bandera, Noel Schajris, called "No Importa" (It Doesn't Matter). He sings in English and Spanish.
  • John Legend plans to collaborate with british born talent Stefan Vitalis, to produce a soulful and dynamic record based on the principles of sadness.

Music videos and acting career

John Legend's cover of Stevie Wonder's 1974 hit song Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing appeared in Will Smith/Eva Mendes' Hitch and on the soundtrack of the movie.

The 2007 video for his single, "P.D.A. ", features Alexandre Rodrigues and Melvin Bragg from the critically acclaimed film, City of God.

Legend's songs in movies:
  • "Refuge" appears on the soundtrack to the 2006 film The Second Chance.
  • "Dare to Dream" is in the 2007 movie Pride.
  • "Someday" is part of the soundtrack to the 2007 film August Rush.

Legend has a minor, non-speaking 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.


Television appearances and commercials

  • He performed "God Bless America" during the 7th inning stretch at the 2006 Major League Baseball All Star Game in Pittsburgh, PA.

  • He appeared on the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, singing a cover of You Don't Know Me. He also appeared on an episode of the television series "Las Vegas" in February 2007 performing his single "Save Room" solo at the end of the episode.

  • Legend appears in a recent commercial for a Lexus SUV, in which Legend is shown listening to Nina Simone's "Backlash Blues" (recorded live in Parismarker, 1968, on The Great Show LP) and describing his experience with the music. He is also notable for performing closing music in many of Apple Incmarker CEO Steve Jobs' keynote presentations.

  • In a 2008 Target commercial, Legend performed a piece of his song "Slow Dance" to pitch his new album "available exclusively at Target." The commercial was shown during online streaming episodes of NBC programs.

  • Legend performed several numbers live in front of hundreds of thousands of fans during the July 4, 2008 celebration on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia.

  • Legend appeared on CNN Heroes 2008, which was taped November 22, 2008, and was televised November 27, 2008.

  • John Legend appeared to perform the song in duet with Colombian rock singer Juanes during the 9th Annual Latin Grammy Awards at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas on November 13, 2008. The version they performed was sang mostly in Spanish by both singers, with only a few lines in English.

  • On Sunday, May 17, 2009, Legend was the commencement speaker for the University of Pennsylvaniamarker's 2009 graduation ceremonies. Amy Goodman happened to be in the audience, and she televised the speech the following Tuesday, May 19, 2009 on Democracy Now!..

Charities and endorsements

On 7 July 2007, Legend participated in the Live Earth concert in London, performing "Ordinary People". On July 8, 2007, he participated in the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreuxmarker, Switzerlandmarker, with India.Arie. On July 11, 2007, he participated in the Jazz Open Festival in Stuttgartmarker, Germanymarker, with Amy Winehouse.

On September 21, 2008, Legend performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK in conjunction with the Peace One Day concert. He sang Green Light, and If You're Out There.

Legend recently launched The Show Me Campaign, through which his fans are encouraged to donate funds toward improving the living situations and prospects of victims of extreme poverty in Mbola, Tanzania. Legend, in early 2008, began touring with Professor Jeff Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute to promote sustainable development as an achievable goal.

Legend returned to his hometown of Springfield, Ohio on Christmas Eve 2007 for a "Coming Home Christmas Benefit Concert" in the auditorium of North High School. The performance featured several local talent from Springfield, including Legend's younger brother Vaughn Anthony Stephens who helped organize the concert. The performance also featured a tribute to Jason Collier and proceeds went to a scholarship fund set up in his name for local high schoolers.

Legend is currently a spokesperson for Bailey's alcoholic beverage. He also spoke on behalf of The Polka Dotz at Milwaukee's 2008 German Fest.

Legend performed and spoke at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, on behalf of the Barack Obama Presidential campaign in April 2008. He later performed "If You're Out There" from the album Evolver and a duet of's "Yes we can" at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Coloradomarker.

Legend performed a half-hour set list in support of Barack Obama in his hometown of Springfield, as well as at The Ohio State Universitymarker and Wright State Universitymarker campuses on September 29, 2008.

Legend will contribute a share of the proceeds of some tickets for his August 13, 2009 concert at Madison Square Gardenmarker to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.


After reading Professor Jeffrey Sachs' book, The End of Poverty, Legend was inspired to visit Ghanamarker to learn more about making life better for the people who live under the poverty line. This is when he started his "Show Me Campaign" in 2007. With this campaign, Legend is calling on his fans to help him in his initiative for those who reside in Bossaso Village and non-profit organizations that the campaign partners with.

In 2007, Legend became 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 May 2007, Legend partnered with Tide laundry detergent to raise awareness about the need of families in St. Bernard Parish,{Slidell, La.} 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.

In October 2007, Legend became involved with a project sponsored by The Gap, a retail clothing store chain in the United States. Through their "project red campaign", (also called 2 WEEKS). The Gap's contribution to their global fund from the sale of each (2 WEEKS) t-shirt is equivalent to the average cost of 2 weeks of anti-retroviral medicine in Africa, which enables people living with HIV to lead healthy, normal lives.

Legend is also the National spokesperson for and has performed benefit concerts for "Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT). MLT is a national non-profit organization that has made ground-breaking progress assisting the next generation of African American, Hispanic and Native American leaders in major corporations, non-profit organizations and entrepreneurial ventures.

Fan appreciation

On July 26, 2007, Legend hosted a John Legend Network Members Only Party and Concert called "The Kings & Queens Bash" at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphiamarker. There were 500 participants in attendance and he introduced the acts from his new label, Homeschool Records to his John Legend Network fans: Estelle, his brother, Vaughn Anthony Stephens, Lucy Woodward and The James Gang.

On July 25, 2008, at the Highline Ballroom in New York Citymarker, John Legend planned another annual private event for his fans that are members of the John Legend Network called "John Legend Unplugged". Legend performed a 21-song set list, including a lot of the new songs that will be on his upcoming album, Evolver, so John Legend Network members were the first to hear the new songs. After the party, John greeted each individual on their way out and took pictures with fans.



Year Title Role Notes
2006 Sesame Street Himself
2007 Curb Your Enthusiasm Himself/Performer Season 6 Finale, 'The Bat Mitzvah'
2007 Las Vegas Himself/Performer Season 4 Episode 11, 'Wagers of Sin'
2008 A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All Forest Ranger Christmas Special
Year Title Role Notes
2008 Sesame Street: Elmo Loves You! Himself
Soul Men Marcus Hooks

See also


External links

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