True multi-hyphenate John Legend is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and producer. He’s sold millions of records and has won an Emmy, 11 Grammys, an Oscar and a Tony which made him the first Black man to achieve EGOT status. John won both an Academy Award and Golden Globe in 2015 for the original song “Glory” from the acclaimed feature Selma.
Since his arrival in 2004, the singer-songwriter/producer/philanthropist has pondered the different sides of love. From “Ordinary People” and “Stay With You” to “All of Me” and “Love Me Now,” Legend has created some of the greatest love songs of our time with his keen mix of soul, pop and hip-hop sensibilities.
Love as a public virtue is the core of what Legend is about. It informs his music and his business choices, the way he and his wife Chrissy live and raise their kids Luna and Miles, and it’s at the center of his activism and philanthropy. Legend is exceptionally talented and beloved globally, yes, but he’s also socially conscious and politically engaged in ways that have extended his influence. It’s why we love him and have found such comfort in his voice for as long as we have.
Thinking about the idea of love as a unifier has been on Legend’s mind for years. When the Ohio native delivered the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, he told the graduates that “the key to success, the key to happiness, is opening your mind and your heart to love.”
We first met John Roger Stephens 16 or so years ago when he was singing the hooks for Kanye West, then a rising rapper with major buzz and an opening tour slot for Usher. A native of Springfield, Ohio, he was born into music from the start. His factory working father was a drummer, his mom sang and directed the church choir and his grandmother was the church organist. Naturally, little John’s first word was “Hallelujah” and by the time he was four, he was taking piano lessons and would soon start to write and sing his own music. In undergrad, he sang in an a cappella group on campus and earned money with piano gigs at church and as a session player—that’s him on the keys on Lauryn Hill’s glorious Miseducation classic “Everything Is Everything.”
Legend took off with his sensational 2004 debut Get Lifted, which earned him three Grammys, including Best New Artist. His meditations on matters of the heart—romance, love, lust, heartbreak, commitment—and all that makes us human has yielded an acclaimed catalog that includes Once Again (2006), Evolver (2008), Wake Up! (his 2010 collaboration with the Roots), Love in the Future (2013), Darkness and Light (2016), and A Legendary Christmas (2018).
Since the release of 2016’s politically-tinged Darkness and Light, Legend has starred in NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert in 2018 and joined the hit competition show The Voice.
Like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, two of his biggest inspirations, Legend is a soul man with a conscious. He’s guided by a deep commitment to helping build just, equitable, and thriving communities, a passion informed by his formative years being marked by the traumas of addiction and the prison system, as Legend watched his mother struggled with both after the sudden death of her mother.
His work is more than standing at an awards podium taking a stance—though his 2015 Academy Award speech highlighting the fact that are more black men behind bars than in slavery was a sobering reminder of what’s at stake and how he uses his platform to push for tangible social change. In 2007, he started the Show Me Campaign to give every child access to a quality education and address the systemic issues in a criminal justice system that continues to disproportionately impact disadvantaged black and brown communities. In 2014 he launched LRNG Innovators to promote innovation in education and the following year he started #FREEAMERICA, a social campaign focused on ending mass incarceration. And Get Lifted Film Co., the production company he co-founded with Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, has combined storytelling and social change for projects like Atlanta's Missing And Murdered: The Lost Children (HBO), while also elevating multicultural creators.
He most recently released his new album, Bigger Love, to critical acclaim.