By Jenna Kelley & Marla Horn Lazarus
“We all must follow our path to let our light shine, and that’s what makes us so unpredictable and unique.”
From a former local wedding singer, known as John Roger Stephens, to an international superstar musician, John Legend has our hearts beating all over the world with his smooth voice and gentle smile. Getting his big break in college, when he was asked to play the piano for “Everything Is Everything” by Lauryn Hill, John hit the ground running and began writing, recording, and producing his own music to become the legend that he is today.
With ten Grammy Awards, one Golden Globe Award, and one Academy Award, he also received the Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. This Grammy Award winner has truly done it all. If he retired from his career right now, he would have already live up to the “Legend,” that he already is. However, he continues to rise to the top, and humbly so, in the show stopping year of 2017.
You can call him the man of many hats, as he recently added to his repertoire, the executive producer of the Golden Globe winning movie, “La La Land.” Not only was he the executive producer, but also he also acted in the film, recorded songs for the movie soundtrack, performed at the 2017 Oscars where he truly brought the stage to life. Additionally, he starred on the soundtrack in the lively classic fairy tale, that has everyone buzzing, “Beauty and the Beast,” singing the title track for the movie, with Ariana Grande. “I just want it to be timeless and timely at the same time,” says John. Truly capturing the essence of time, he knows exactly how to pull his audience into his own world with a simple musical note.
John Legend is not an ordinary guy; although, before he was named as executive producer of a filmed musical, he started at the top of the “Billboard Hot 100” charts debuting his first hit song, “Ordinary People,” from his first studio album, Get Lifted in 2004. John worked with an umbrella of professional musicians, even including our March celebrity spotlight, Alicia Keys. Although, it wasn’t until his sophomore studio album, Once Again was released when John was truly noticed and received his first Grammy Award for Best New Artist. (2006) He also received Grammy awards and nominations for his first studio album and hit singles this same year.
“Critics like to describe and categorize things. Categories often have a way of limiting people,” he states. For John, it appears he has no limits and the rest is history. Even though he didn’t promote for a Super Bowl commercial, John headlined the 2009 Pregame Show at the Super Bowl XLIII. In 2016, John was asked to perform at the 2017 NBA All-Star Halftime Show. He headlined the show and entertained the crowd performing many of his hit singles, including “Green Light” from his third studio album, Evolver as well as his mega hit, “All of Me.”
“All of Me” is one of his singles that was quite significant in John’s life. Not only did this single reach his first number one hit single on the “Billboard Hot 100” charts, but he also dedicated it to his beautiful wife, model, Chrissy Teigen. Sorry, ladies, he’s taken! The single is featured on his fourth studio album, Love in the Future (2013). This album was also released the same year that John and Chrissy recited their vows at their wedding in Italy. “I think the thing about love is that even though the things around us change…the ways we love each other is timeless,” says John. “It requires trust, honesty, commitment, romance, and physical chemistry.” This hot couple definitely has physical chemistry, as the two, madly in love, welcomed their daughter, Luna, to their family in 2016. Chrissy also appears in many of John’s music videos.
As his music evolves, John encapsulates his audience with beautiful messages. He doesn’t just sing about love and relationships, but he tries to change the world with his music. “I want to move people,” John said. And with his music, he certainly moves mountains. Founding the “Show Me Campaign” in 2007, John became a huge advocate for ending poverty and promoting education. He was honored with the BET Humanitarian Award for founding this campaign and it accomplishments. He received the NAACP Image Award for his music video “You and I (Nobody Else)” in 2015. The very next year, John ended up winning the NAACP President’s Award. He is also known to be a huge supporter of our former president, Barack Obama and sang a song called “Yes We Can” in a video for Obama in 2008. “I don’t think it is an artist’s responsibility to be political all the time,” says John. “However, I think that when you are able to say something that is moving and put it in a great song, then that is even better.” He partnered up with the rapper, Common, and recorded the song, “Glory,” for the feature film, Selma, which discusses the 1965 Selma Montgomery marches. In 2014, “Glory” won the duo a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for Best Original Song.
John also performs at many concerts supporting natural disasters, such as the Hope for Haiti telethon show, and he partnered up with “Tide” laundry detergent and helped out the community during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. One major crisis that John shed light on was the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. In his new hit single, “Love Me Now,” from his fifth studio album, Darkness and Light, not only features his own family, but he wanted to feature real life stories in his music video. He even included the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, Domiz Refugee Camp in Northern Iraq, and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. During the month of May, John will begin touring his Darkness and Light Tour around the world to promote his newest album and spread positivity. “Sometimes there’s that perfect moment when the crowd, the music, the energy of the room come together in a way that brings me to tears.” Yes, Mr. Legend, I’m sure you’ll be shedding a lot of tears this summer and so will we at his South Florida concert on May 12 at Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami.
You never know when he will surprise you as John recently stunned fans by holding an impromptu gig at a London train station on a quiet Wednesday morning. He commandeered one of the public pianos at St. Pancras International station shortly after stepping off the Eurostar train from Paris. Crowds of passersby stopped to cheer him on while snapping photographs and listing to the soul star perform a bunch of his hits. For some, however, his appearance wasn’t entirely unexpected. John tipped off fans about a possible performance via Twitter just minutes before stating: “Arriving at London @StPancrasInt on @EurostarUK. Do they still have that piano there?”
“Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure.” With his lovely family, timeless voice, and timely presence in the limelight, John Legend truly melts our hearts and souls. To describe John in just one simple word: Legendary.