From child prodigy to award-winning musician, John Legend is more than worthy of his name. On top of music, he has also ventured into television, film, theater, and married a supermodel to further solidify his legendary status.
Born John Roger Stephens on December 28, 1978 in Springfield, Ohio, he came from a musical family as his father was a drummer, his mother sang and his grandmother played the organ. John learned to play the piano at four years old and began singing in the church choir at seven. He excelled academically as he skipped two grades in elementary school, leading him to attend Springfield’s North High School at 12 years old and the University of Pennsylvania at 16, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1999. He got his first music gig while attending Penn after he was introduced to Lauryn Hill, who had John play piano on her 1998 single “Everything is Everything.”
In 2000, John began creating demos, and in 2001, he connected with producer Devo Springsteen, who introduced him to Kanye West. John Stephens was signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music and subsequently given the name “John Legend” by poet J. Ivy, who said he sounded like an old school legend, most likely thinking of Nat King Cole, another crooner who played the piano. After songwriting, singing background and playing keyboards on songs by Jay-Z, Twista, Slum Village, Black Eyed Peas, Janet Jackson and Kanye, John Legend released his debut album Get Lifted on December 28, 2004. The album was critically acclaimed as it won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 2006, while his hit single “Ordinary People” won for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Legend himself won the Best New Artist award.
Legend’s sophomore album, Once Again, was released on October 24, 2006, and once again he was awarded with a Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Grammy Award in 2007 for “Heaven.” The album attained platinum status after it peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. He followed this album with 2008’s Evolver–featuring the André 3000-assisted “Green Light”–and 2010’s Wake Up, a collaborative album with The Roots, which won a Grammy for Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song for “Shine,” and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the song “Hang On in There.” Legend has released several albums and singles, including 2013’s Love in the Future, which featured the hit single “All of Me,” a dedication to his wife Chrissy Teigen that became an international chart-topper. In 2014, John Legend and Common released the song “Glory” for the movie Selma and the song won a Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Original Song.
John Legend has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including serving as a judge on NBC’s singing competition The Voice. He is on the prestigious list of EGOT winners, the first Black man to achieve that honor as he won an Emmy for his involvement with NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert in 2018, won more than 10 Grammy Awards, a Best Original Song Oscar for “Glory” in 2015, and a Best Revival of a Play Tony award as a co-producer for August Wilson’s Jitney in 2017.