We end up our romance week with John Legend.
John Roger Stephens (born December 28, 1978), better known by his stage name John Legend, is an American singer, songwriter and actor. He has won nine Grammy Awards, one Golden Globe and one Academy Award. In 2007, Legend received the special 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 multiple established artists. Legend added his voice to those of other artists, assisting in them becoming chart-topper hits. He lent his voice to Magnetic Man’s “Getting Nowhere,” Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”, on Slum Village’s “Selfish” and Dilated Peoples’ “This Way”. Other artists included Jay-Z’s “Encore”, and he sang 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”. He has gained chart topping hits from his solo work as well, including the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, “All of Me”. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2015 for writing the song “Glory” from the film Selma.
2004–2007: Get Lifted and Once Again
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 into 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.
2008–2010: Evolver and Wake Up!
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.
2011–present: Tour, Duets and Love in the Future
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.
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 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 debut studio album on track 6 “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” On Feb. 1, 2015, he sang “America the Beautiful” in the opening ceremony of Super Bowl XLIX. He also co-wrote and provided vocals for French DJ David Guetta’s song Listen, as part of the album of the same name.