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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, and in 2007, he received the special Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Prior to the release of his debut album, Stephens' career gained momentum through a series of successful collaborations with multiple established artists. Stephens added his voice to those of other artists, assisting in them reaching 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" and Fort Minor's "High Road". Stephens played piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything".
Stephens was born on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. He is the son of Phyllis, a seamstress, and Ronald Stephens, a factory worker and former National Guardsman. Throughout his childhood, Stephens was homeschooled on and off by his mother. At age four, he began playing the piano and at age seven, he performed with his church choir. When he was ten, his parents divorced. At the age of 12, Stephens attended North High School, from which he graduated four years later. He graduated salutatorian. He was student body president of Springfield North High School his senior year.
According to Stephens, he was offered scholarships to Harvard University, Georgetown University and Morehouse College. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, 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). Stephens' lead vocals on the group's recording of Joan Osborne's "One of Us" received critical acclaim landing the song on the track list of the 1998 Best of Collegiate a Cappella compilation CD. Stephens was also a member of the prestigious senior societies Sphinx Senior Society and Onyx Senior Honor Society while an undergraduate at Penn. While in college, Stephens 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.
During this period, Stephens took time to hold a number of shows around Philadelphia, eventually expanding his audience base to New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. He finished college in 1999, and thereafter began producing, writing, and recording his own music. He released two albums independently; his self-titled demo (2000) and Live at Jimmy's Uptown (2001), which he sold at his shows.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Stephens 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 Stephens to then up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West; Stephens was hired to sing during the hooks of West's music. After signing to West's label, he chose his stage name from an idea that was given to him by poet J. Ivy, due to what he perceived as Stephens' "old-school sound". J. Ivy stated, "I heard your music and it reminds me of that music from the old school. You sound like one of the legends. As a matter of fact, that's what I'm going to call you from now on! I'm going to call you John Legend." After J. Ivy continued to call him by the new moniker "John Legend," others quickly caught on, including Kanye West, and the name stuck. In spite of John's reluctance to change his stage name from John Stephens to John Legend he eventually announced his new artist name as John Legend. Stephens' 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", also featuring Jay-Z and J. Ivy, Dilated Peoples' "This Way" and Slum Village's "Selfish".
Stephens released his debut album, Get Lifted, in December 2004. It debuted at number thirteen on the 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. It has sold 850,000 copies worldwide. The album produced two singles: "Ordinary People" which debuted at 39 on the hot 100, peaking at 29 and "Used to Love U" which debuted at 45 and peaked at 30.
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 will.i.am. In an interview with MTV, he 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 Stephens 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.
Stephens 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 entitled "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 magazine, he explained his reasons for calling 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 title 'Evolver'."
In 2009, Stephens 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.
John 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; a video for the song has been released. "Hard Times" is the second single.
In February 2011 John won three Grammy Awards (one by himself and two with The Roots) at the 53rd Annual Grammy Music Awards Ceremony. Legend won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for "Shine", and he and The Roots won Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album (Wake Up!) 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.
Summer 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 will be produced by Legend himself, along with Kanye West and Dave Tozer. This same production team worked on Legend's previous albums Get Lifted and Once Again.
Legend was granted an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Howard University at the 144th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 12, 2012.
Legend is currently 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.
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 has now settled the lawsuit with Stokes.
His cover of Stevie Wonder's 1974 hit song "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" appeared in Will Smith/Eva Mendes' film Hitch and on the soundtrack album of the movie.
The 2007 video for his single, "P.D.A. (We Just Don't Care)", features Alexandre Rodrigues and Alice Braga from the critically acclaimed film, City of God.
Songs attributed to John Legend have appeared in feature films, as follows:
He has 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. Although he has no real dialogue in the film, he sings a song called "I'm Your Puppet" along with Jackson and Mac.
On February 17th, 2013, Legend sang the Star Spangled Banner on TNT for the NBA All-Star game 2013.
On July 7, 2007, he participated in the Live Earth concert in London, performing "Ordinary People". On July 8, 2007, he participated in the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, with India.Arie. On July 11, 2007, he participated in the Jazz Open Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, with Amy Winehouse. On September 21, 2008, he also 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".
The Show Me Campaign google , through which his fans are encouraged to donate funds toward improving the living situations and prospects of victims of extreme poverty in Mbola, Tanzania, is another example of Stephens' charitable involvement. In early 2008, he began touring with Alexus Ruffin, and Professor Jeff Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute to promote sustainable development as an achievable goal. Stephens joined Sachs as a keynote speaker and performer at the inaugural Millennium Campus Conference. Stephens then joined the Board of Advisors of the Millennium Campus Network (MCN), and has supported MCN programs through online support and funding fellowships for MCN summer interns through the Show Me Campaign.
Stephens 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.
After reading Professor Jeffrey Sachs' book, The End of Poverty, Stephens was inspired to visit Ghana 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, Stephens called 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 Stephens was 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 he 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 which Tide is helping to rebuild in that community.
In October 2007 he 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.
In 2009 Stephens gave AIDS Service Center NYC permission to remix his song "If You're Out There" to create a music video promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and testing.
Stephens claims to have contributed a share of the proceeds of some tickets for his August 13, 2009, concert at Madison Square Garden to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Stephens 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.
On January 22, 2010, he performed "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" on the Hope for Haiti Now telethon show.
On September 8, 2010, John Legend joined the national board of Teach For America. Legend also sits on the boards of The Education Equality Project, the Harlem Village Academies, and Stand for Children. He serves on the Harlem Village Academies’ National Leadership Board.
On September 9, 2010, he performed "Coming Home" on the Colbert Report as a tribute song for the end of combat operations in Iraq, and for the active troops and the veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
In 2011, he contributed the track "Love I've Never Known" to the Red Hot Organization's most recent album "Red Hot+Rio 2." The album is a follow-up to the 1996 "Red Hot+Rio." Proceeds from the album sales will be donated to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues.
On March 6, 2012, John Legend was appointed by the World Economic Forum to the Forum of Young Global Leaders. On June 1, 2013, Legend will perform at Gucci's global concert event in London whose campaign, "Chime For Change", aims to raise awareness of women's issues in terms of education, health and justice.
Stephens is currently a spokesperson for the Baileys line of alcoholic beverages. He also spoke on behalf of The Polka Dotz at Milwaukee's 2008 German Fest.
He performed and spoke at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, 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 will.i.am's "Yes We Can" at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Also, he performed a half-hour set list in support of Barack Obama in his hometown of Springfield, as well as at The Ohio State University and Wright State University campuses on September 29, 2008.
On July 26, 2007, Stephens hosted a John Legend Network Members Only Party and Concert called "The Kings & Queens Bash" at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. 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. Harmonicist Frederic Yonnet performed as a special guest.
On July 25, 2008, at the Highline Ballroom in New York City, John Legend planned another annual private event for his fans who are members of the John Legend Network called "John Legend Unplugged". Legend performed a 21-song set list, including several songs from his Evolver album. This allowed John Legend Network members to be the first to hear the new songs. After the party, Legend greeted each individual on their way out and took pictures with fans.
On February 8, 2011, Legend performed and spoke at Arizona State University's Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, Arizona for a Black History Month event presented by the Undergraduate Student Government of ASU.
On December 27, 2011, Legend's rep announced that after dating for four years, he became engaged to model Chrissy Teigen while vacationing in the Maldives.
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