Five-time Grammy Award winning American R&B singer, songwriter, and pianist John Legend first built a loyal following through performances in nightclubs in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. before achieving stardom with his debut studio album, the platinum-selling “Get Lifted” (2004). Featuring collaborations with rap artist and producer Kanye West and rapper Snoop Dogg, the album produced the 2005 hit single “Ordinary People” and brought the ultimate music renaissance man three Grammy Awards and two Soul Train Awards in addition to a number of additional honors. His second album, “Once Again” (2006), was an instant hit in both America and the United Kingdom. Thanks to the singles “Heaven” and “Save Room,” he was handed a Grammy Award and a Soul Train Award, respectively, in 2007. The same year, he also nabbed his fifth Grammy Award for his work in “Family Affair.” Known for his soulful sound and powerful lyrics, Legend also experienced success through a string of flourishing partnerships with others artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Slum Village.
Outside of music, Legend is a philanthropist. He launched the Show Me Campaign in 2007 and through this campaign, he encouraged his fans to donate funds for improving the living situations and prospects of the poor in Ghana. He was inspired to learn more about making life better for others and visited Ghana after reading Professor Jeffrey Sachs' book, “The End of Poverty.” The same year, Legend became the spokesperson for GQ Magazine's “The Gentleman's Fund ™,” an inaugural to increase awareness and support five basic essentials for men: health, education, opportunity, environment and justice. He also teamed up with Tide to raise awareness about the need of families in St. Bernard's Parish, one of the most desolated areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. He folded laundry at The Tide Clean Start mobile laundromat for a day and visited houses that Tide is helping to rebuild in that community.
Childhood and Family:
John Stephens, professionally known as John Legend, was born on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. A child prodigy, he started singing gospel and playing the piano at the age of five. He recalls, “I used to watch Michael Jackson on television and I figured I could do what he was doing.”
By age 7, he was already performing in his church choir and taking courses in classical music. John graduated from Springfield North High School, in which he also became a prom king and president of the student council when he was 16. He then moved to Pennsylvania to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in English with the emphasis on African American literature and culture.
A native of Springfield, Ohio, John Legend began his musical career at an early age by singing with the church choir and playing the piano. He left his home at age 16 to pursue a college education in Pennsylvania and it was there that the future star first found an audience. Legend led Counterparts, a coed jazz and pop group, from 1997 to 1999. His lead vocals on the group's recording of Joan Osbourne's “One of Us” helped the song receive critical acclaim that resulted in landing a desirable spot on the track list of the “Best of Collegiate A Cappella” compilation CD in 1998. Around that same time, he was hired to play piano on Lauryn Hill's “Everything Is Everything.”
Unfortunately, Legend's first occupation after college was not in the music industry. He worked at the Boston Consulting Group in Boston and then New York City. His passion for music brought him to local nightclubs where he began to build a loyal following. In addition to NYC, he performed as an independent artist on the nightclub circuit in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as well as distributed live LPs like “John Stephens” and “Live at SOB's” (2002). Legend also created a reputation as an in-demand session musician, playing and once in a while writing for various artists such as Alicia Keys, Twista, Janet Jackson, and the then up-and-coming hip hop artist Kanye West, whom he encountered through roommate and ex-Penn classmate Devon Harris (aka. Devo Springsteen).
It was Kanye West that helped Legend acquire mainstream popularity. Shortly after their meeting, the two became friends and have since worked closely together, with West signing Legend as the first artist to join his new label, G.O.O.D. Music. Legend's voice could be heard on West’s demo, which went on to become the Grammy Award-winning album “The College.” Successively, West supplied rhythm tracks for Legend's demo that was later evolved into “Get Lifted.”
Released on December 8, 2004, “Get Lifted” marked Legend's first studio album. It peaked at No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 12 in U.K. and eventually went platinum in the U.S. The album also enjoyed massive critical success and earned Legend three Grammy Awards in the categories of Best New Artist, Best R&B Album and Best R&B Male Vocal Performance for the rendition “Ordinary People.” He also picked up two Soul Train awards for Best R&B/Soul Album Male and Best R&B/Soul Single Male, a BET for Best New Artist and a MOBO for Best R&B Act. “Get Lifted” also spawned the singles “Used to Love U,” “Number One” (featuring Kanye West) and “So High.”
Legend released his sophomore album, “Once Again,” on October 24, 2006, which directly became a Top 3 hit in the U.S. and a Top 10 hit in the U.K. The first single, “Save Room,” won the artist a 2007 Soul Train for Best R&B/Soul Single Male, while the song “Heaven” brought him a 2007 Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Other singles released from the album are “P.D.A. (We Just Don't Care),” “Another Again” and “Stereo.” Legend won his fifth Grammy for “Family Affair” in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
The talented musician continues working with other artists. He has sung for such hits as “Selfish” (Slum Village), “Encore” (Jay-Z), “This Way” (Dilated Peoples), and backup on Alicia Keys' “Don't Know My Name” and Fort Minor's “High Road.” More recently, in 2007, he collaborated with Keyshia Cole, Consequence and Rich Boy. He also worked on frequent collaborator Kanye West's 2007 album “Graduation” on the songs “Better Days” and “Home.”
On July 2007, Legend took part in the Live Earth concert in London where he performed the Grammy-winning “Ordinary People.” He also participated in the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, and the Jazz Open Festival in Stuttgart, Germany. In July, he hosted a John Legend Network Members Only Party and Concert called “The Kings & Queens Bash” at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA.
Now an artist of Homeschool Records, Legend is set to launch his third album later this year.
Grammy: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, “Family Affair,” 2007
Grammy: Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, “Heaven,” 2007
Soul Train: Best R&B/Soul Single Male, “Save Room,” 2007
Grammy: Best New Artist, 2006
Grammy: Best R&B Album, “Get Lifted,” 2006
Grammy: Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, “Ordinary People,” 2006
Soul Train: Best R&B/Soul Single Male, “Ordinary People,” 2006
Soul Train: Best R&B/Soul Album Male, “Get Lifted,” 2006
BET: Best New Artist, 2005
MOBO: Best R&B Act, 2005