John Legend is a multi-talented artist who developed hit songs and albums that won many awards of the time and also a social activist who supported the rights of African Americans, women and children.
John Roger Stephens, known as John Legend, is a multi-talented musician, songwriter, actor, and producer. He is from an African-American descent family. Ronald Lamar Stephens and Phyllis Elaine Stephens welcomed him to this world on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio, United States. He is the eldest of their four children. John had very humble beginnings as he was the son of a factory worker. However, music ran in his family as his father played drums, and his mother sang in church choirs. Also, his grandmother used to play the organ at church. As a result, he became interested in music from a very early age. Legend also confirmed this once by stating, “I grew up in a family that loved music and art, but it was also a very religious family” (Lambert). He learned to play the piano when he was only four years old and started participating and the church choir. It was his grandmother who taught him how to play the piano.
His parents provided the homeschooling of his elementary-school years. After that, he graduated from North High School. He was offered admission to Harvard University, Georgetown University, and Morehouse College. Nevertheless, he chose to go to the University of Pennsylvania. During his time there, he studied English and served as president of a pop and jazz acapella group, the Counterparts. As a result of his excellent skills, he was selected as a member of the most prestigious senior societies, the OXYX Senior Honor Society and The Sphinx Senior Society. His introduction to Lauryn Hill also occurred during college. Eventually, she hired him to play the piano on a song, “Everything Is Everything.” included in her album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’ Upon graduation from college, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on African-American literature.
John started working as a business management consultant and played gigs at night during his first three years in New York City after graduation. Eventually, he began writing, producing, and recording his music. He released two albums independently, “demo” in 2000 and “Live at Jimmy’s Uptown” in 2001. He also sent his work to several record labels. Early in his career, he also collaborated with famous musicians such as Alicia Keys and Kanye West. In 2004, he released his debut album, “Get Lifted.” The album contained three hit singles, ‘Ordinary People,’ ‘Number One,’ and ‘So High.’ His album “Get Lifted” sold 850,000 copies worldwide, making it an international success. The MOBO Awards presented Legend with the award for Best R&B Act in 2005. The Grammy Award for best R&B album was also presented to Legend in 2006.
As Legend got more popular, he also started appearing on albums by popular artists, such as Jay-Z and Stephen Colbert. “In 2006, his second studio album ‘Once Again’ was released. Debuting at number three on the ‘US Billboard 200,’ the album became a big hit. Its hit song ‘Heaven’ won Legend his second ‘Grammy Award’ for Best Male R&B Vocal Performances” (Who Is John Legend?). On the tribute album “Different Strokes by Different Folks,” Legend shared the award for the best R&B performance with Joss Stone and Van Hunt.
In 2008, Legend released Evolver, which maintained his popularity. For his album Evolver, he stated that “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 am NOT gonna stay in the same place and that I am 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” (Lewis). In the same year, he starred as a supporting character in the movie “Soul Men” and also sang a song “Yes We Can” for Barack Obama. The year 2010 saw the release of Wake Up! which was a collaboration between Legend and The Roots. “His 2010 collaboration with the Roots, Wake Up!, won three Grammys—best R&B album, best traditional R&B vocal performance Hang On in There, and best R&B song Shine” (Bauer).
Additionally, to writing and releasing back-to-back hit albums, he collaborated with many singers including Meghan Trainor and Kelly Clarkson. In 2013, he released his award-winning album Love in the Future, which included the smash hit single “All of Me.” Sixty-eight thousand copies of the album were sold in the first week after it was released, making it a huge success in many countries. Legend performed a gospel-influenced song, ‘Glory,’ for the film Selma with rapper Lonnie Rashid Lynn in 2014.
He released his fifth album’ Darkness and Light’ in 2016 and had a breakout hit with ‘Love Me Now.’ In the same year, he also played a big supporting in the film ‘La La Land.’ The movie won 6 Academy Awards and also won an Oscar. August Wilson’s Jitney was coproduced by Legend on Broadway in 2017. They received a Tony Award as it was named ‘Best Play Revival.’ Legend also performed a duet with Ariana Grande in the same year for the movie Beauty and the Beast. Moreover, he also voiced the lead character in the short animation film ‘Crow: The Legend’ in April 2017.
Legend appeared in a live telecast as Jesus Christ of the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in 2018. He earned a Creative Arts Emmy Award for a best live variety special as a coproducer for the show. He became the first African American man and the youngest person to become a member of the elite EGOT club. A year later, John Legend was hired as a voice coach on NBC’s singing competition ‘The Voice’ and also won it alongside Maelyn Jarmon. In addition to his music career, John is a partner in Get Lifted Film Co. with Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius. “They have produced ‘Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’ and ‘Rhythm + Flow’ for Netflix, the HBO document-series ‘Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children,’ and ’40 Years A Prisoner” (John Legend).
John Legend married Chrissy Teigen in 2011 after dating her for four years before getting engaged to her in 2011. They tied the knot in 2013. He dedicated his very famous song ‘All of Me’ to his wife during their marriage. In 2016, they welcomed their first child, a daughter named Luna Simone. The couple welcomed a second baby, a boy named Miles Theodore, in 2018. Now, they are expecting another child.
- 2014- Best Original Song: Glory -Winner
American Music Awards
- 2014- Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist: John Legend -Winner
African-American Film Critics Association
- 2014- Best Music Award: John Legend -Winner
- 2005- Best New Artist: John Legend -Winner
- 2015- Best Collaboration: John Legend and Common -Winner
- 2020- Video of the Year: Higher -Winner
MTV Video Music Awards
- 2006- Best New Artist: John Legend -Winner
- 2006- Best R&B Album: Get Lifted -Winner
- 2006- Best Mal R&B Vocal Performance: Ordinary People -Winner
- 2007- Best Male R&B Vocal Performance: Heaven -Winner
- 2007- Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Family Affair -Winner
- 2009- Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Stay with Me -Winner
- 2011- Best R&B Song: Shine -Winner
- 2011- Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: Hang on In There -Winner
- 2011- Best R&B Album: Wake up! -Winner
- 2016- Best Song Written for Visual Media: Glory -Winner
- 2020- Best Rap Performance: Higher -Winner
- 2021- Best R&B Album: Bigger Love -Winner
- Anthony Hamilton
- Alicia Keys
- Robin Thicke
- Musiq Soulchild
- Brian McKnight
- Chrisette Michele
- Cody ChesnuTT
- Aretha Franklin
- Marvin Gaye
- Nina Simone
Throughout his life, John Legend has advocated for social change. “In an essay competition Legend won at age 15, he wrote of his dream to become a star recording artist and to use his influence and resources to give back to his community” (John Legend, Singer, Songwriter, Producer, and Activist). He proved it by using his influence and resources to support the rights of African Americans, women, and children. He always promoted social justice, and certain works, like Glory and Selma, were created for the cause of equality in society.
John Legend has launched a campaign called FREEAMERICA to end mass incarceration. It is developed to empower the people who are affected adversely by the criminal justice system and those who want to change it. With the goal of supporting local governments in addressing racial inequalities in health, education, employment, and other areas, he launched another campaign called HUMANLEVEL.
John Legend is a multitalented musician, singer, songwriter, actor, and producer. His family is of African descent. Music runs in his family, despite his humble beginnings. From an early age, he developed an interest in music. During his college years, he studied English and served as president of an acapella group. During the day, John worked as a business management consultant and played gigs at night. Eventually, he began writing, producing, and recording his music and sent his work to record labels. He collaborated with many popular singers and was soon a recognized artist in the country. He released albums that included award-winning hits. Over the years, he became popular in the whole world and won many Grammys and also Oscars. He used his popularity to highlight the contemporary issues connected to the Civil Rights Movement. He always promoted social justice and supported the rights of women and children.
Baskin, Liza. “We Heart: John Legend for Being a Fearless Feminist.” Ms. Magazine, 1 Apr. 2013, msmagazine.com/2013/04/01/we-heart-john-legend-for-being-a-fearless-feminist/.
Beaudoin, Kate. “One Quote Sums up Why John Legend Is the Voice for Justice Music Desperately Needs.” Mic, 3 Mar. 2015, www.mic.com/articles/111698/one-quote-sums-up-why-john-legend-is-the-social-voice-music-desperately-needs#:~:text=%22A%20just%20society%20is%20not.
Cohen, Deirdre. “Musician-Social Activist John Legend on the Continuing Struggle for Justice.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 16 Oct. 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/musician-activist-john-legend-on-prison-reform-social-justice/.
Editors, Biography.com. “John Legend.” Biography, 30 Mar. 2018, www.biography.com/musician/john-legend.
“John Legend, Singer, Songwriter, Producer, and Activist; Founder of FREEAMERICA.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 3 Oct. 2019, www.uschamberfoundation.org/bio/john-legend-unlocked-futures.
“John Legend.” Www.law.upenn.edu, www.law.upenn.edu/live/profiles/1057-john-legend.
Bauer, Patricia. “John Legend”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 27 Jan. 2022,
Lambert, Molly. “What Makes John Legend America’s Most Versatile Artist.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Dec. 2017, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/what-makes-john-legend-americas-most-versatile-artist-180967227/.
Lewis, Pete. n.d. “JOHN LEGEND: An Evolving Legend.” Www.bluesandsoul.com. http://www.bluesandsoul.com/feature/343/all_systems_go_for_john_legend/.
TheFamousPeople.com, Editors. “Who Is John Legend? Everything You Need to Know.” Www.thefamouspeople.com, www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/john-legend-12381.php. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.
Winten, Marjolijn. “What Is John Legend’s Music Actually about?” Nolala, 16 Nov. 2019, https://www.nolala.com/en/artist-in-spotlight/what-is-john-legends-music-actually-about-the-meaning-of-his-lyrics-explained/.