Who Is John Legend?
John Legend was born on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. He became an in-demand session musician and songwriter, working with such artists as Alicia Keys, Twista and Janet Jackson. He was soon introduced to up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West, and the two musicians collaborated on one another's demos. Legend's debut album, 2004's Get Lifted, won three Grammy Awards. After two more solo albums, he released his collaboration with the Roots, Wake Up!, in 2010. Legend also appeared on the TV competition Duets as a coach before dropping his next album, 2013's Love in the Future.
Early Life and Career
Long before earning a famous reputation as a multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, John Legend was born John Roger Stephens on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. A child prodigy, Legend's grandmother taught him how to play the piano, and he grew up singing in the church choir. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he directed a co-ed a cappella group. After graduation, he switched gears and worked for Boston Consulting Group but continued to perform in nightclubs in New York City.
Legend became an in-demand session musician and songwriter, working with such artists as Alicia Keys, Twista and Janet Jackson. He was soon introduced to up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West, and the two musicians collaborated on one another's demos.
Legend's debut album, 2004's Get Lifted, went platinum thanks in part to the hit single "Ordinary People," a song that he originally penned for the Black Eyed Peas. He went home with three Grammy Awards for Get Lifted: for best R&B album, best R&B male vocal performance and best new artist. Legend's sophomore effort, Once Again, was released in 2006.
Legend's musical talent has made him a mainstream star. In 2006, he performed at Super Bowl XL in Detroit, the NBA All-Star Game, and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. He soon released several new albums, including Evolver (2008). Evolver featured "Green Light," a collaboration with André 3000. This song proved to be a modest hit, and the album itself reached the top of the R&B/hip-hop charts. That same year, Legend stepped in front of the cameras. He had a supporting role in the 2008 comedy Soul Men, starring Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson.
In 2010, Legend released Wake Up!, which he recorded with the Roots. The album received raves from music critics and tackled tunes made famous by the likes of Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone. The Curtis Mayfield-penned "Hard Times" was one of the record's main singles; another hit, "Shine," Legend's own composition, earned him a Grammy Award. He and the Roots also won a Grammy for best R&B album in 2011.
Legend tried his hand at reality television with the singing competition Duets during the summer of 2012. He worked alongside Kelly Clarkson, Robin Thicke and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. The musical stars coached and performed with the contestants on the show. Later that year, Legend contributed a new track to Quentin Tarantino's 2012 film Django Unchained.
2013 saw Legend releasing his next solo album Love in the Future, which featured the No. 1 ballad "All of Me" as well as tracks like "Made to Love" and "You & I (Nobody in the World)." And in 2015, the songwriter, along with rapper Common, won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song—"Glory"—from the film Selma. The tune also won an Academy Award, with both artists using their Oscar acceptance speeches to highlight contemporary issues that connect to the Civil Rights Movement.
In December 2016, Legend released his fifth solo studio album, Darkness and Light, which features collaborations with Miguel and Chance the Rapper.
Outside of music, Legend is involved in numerous social and charitable causes. He is a supporter of the Harlem Village Academies, a New York City organization that runs several charter schools. Legend serves as a vice chairman on the HVA board. He explained to Black Enterprise magazine why education is such an important issue to him. "I come from a city where 40 percent to 50 percent of our kids drop out of high school. I did well in high school and then went to an Ivy League school, but I was the exception. We need to do more to make sure every kid has a quality education."
Continuing with his commitment to education reform, Legend lent his song "Shine" to the 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman. The film takes a critical look at the nation's public school system.
Legend became engaged to model Chrissy Teigen while the couple was on vacation in the Maldives in late 2011. They tied the knot in September 2013 in Italy. On April 14, 2016, the pair welcomed their first child, a daughter named Luna Simone. On November 21, 2017, they announced that Teigen was pregnant with baby No. 2.
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