“Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure.” –John Legend
John Legend knew he had a target on his back from the moment he chose his stage name, “Legend.” But he worked hard and has more than lived up to the expectations that a name like that brings. Throughout the years, Legend has shown that he’s not a one trick pony either, as he constantly branches out to new territories, most recently with acting. It feels like Legend has only given the world a glimpse of what he is capable of, so stay tuned for much more to come, and in the meantime read up on some facts about the man, the myth, the “John” Legend!
42. Friend of a Friend
No matter how talented someone is, at the end of the day, who you know is a crucial part of finding success in the entertainment industry. Lucky for Legend, he just so happened to be college roommates with music producer Devo Springsteen. Never heard of him? Maybe you’ve heard of his cousin, Kanye West. Springsteen introduced Legend to West and they immediately started making music together.
41. One for Me
John Legend originally wrote the song “Ordinary People” for the Black Eyed Peas, but it didn’t seem to be the right fit for the band. However, Legend liked it so much that he kept it for himself, completed the song, and put it on his debut album.
40. And One for You
Legend gave Estelle the idea for her hit song “American Boy,” and even made an appearance in the music video for it.
39. Legend by Name
“Legend” is actually a stage name, as he was born John Roger Stephens on December 28, 1978, to a mother who was a seamstress and a father who was a factory worker.
38. Instant Replay
His first big Grammy Awards were an important night for Legend, so much so that he recorded it at home and watched it later on. He wanted to see how his performance came off and how his speeches sounded, and ended up being pleased with both.
37. The Big Four
In 2006, Legend performed for three of the big four sports leagues, working a show for Super Bowl XL as well as shows for the NBA and MLB All-Star games. In 2017, he checked off the fourth and final league from the list when he performed at the NHL 100 during their All-Star Weekend.
36. A Song Fit for the President
In 2006, while Barack Obama was campaigning to become President of the United States, Legend wrote the song “If You’re Out There,” which was inspired by Obama. He debuted it at the Democratic Party’s summer convention, and later, alongside Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen, was able to perform it for Obama at a benefit concert.
35. Cutting in
Musician Estelle owes the beginning of her career to Legend, who became her mentor after the two met at a restaurant in LA in 2002. She actually initially approached Kanye West about working with the rapper, but Legend was there too and offered to mentor her.
34. Gargling Salt Water Didn’t Help
Legend changed his vocal style early on in his career simply out of necessity. Performing every night was new to him and he couldn’t keep the raw sound he developed singing in the church choir, and instead adopted a smoother, cleaner sound.
33. World’s Youngest Ninth Grader
Legend is not only musically gifted, but a bit of a smarty pants, too. He was homeschooled for most of his life, which led to him skipping a few grades and attending high school at the age of 12. This earned him the nickname “Doogie Howser” from his classmates.
32. Too Many Cooks
In 2012, Legend replaced Lionel Richie as one of the judges for the new music competition show Duets, but after one season and poor ratings (possibly due to over-saturation of competitive music shows), it wasn’t renewed for a second season.
31. Someone Had to Be First
Legend holds the honor of being one the first artists to sign to Kanye West’s GOOD music record label, and his debut album, Get Lifted, was the first album released under the label.
30. Living up to Expectations
Legend got his stage name from a friend who felt like his sound and his music had an old school vibe to it. Legend knew the name sounded a bit arrogant for a new artist, but he liked the pressure it added, as it made him work hard to live up to the name.
29. Back With a Purpose
Legend’s first real exposure to the Grammys was in 2005, where he was nominated, among others, for Song of the Year for “Ordinary People.”
28. Glimpse of What’s to Come
Throughout the entirety of his career, Legend has been nominated for 28 Grammy awards and won 10. He isn’t anywhere close to the top in either category, but he still has a long career ahead of him, so don’t be surprised if he pops up in at least the top five down the road.
27. In the Neighborhood
In 2006, Legend appeared on Sesame Street, where he performed a song with Hoots the Owl. He would return in 2018 and perform the song “We Come Together,” this time with the whole gang from Big Bird to Elmo.
26. Inches Away
Legend was considered a child prodigy, as he played and excelled at the piano at a young age—only three years old. Because he was obviously too short, his dad had to attach wooden blocks to the pedals so Legend could reach them.
25. Family Song
Some artists completely cut ties with their families when they get rich and famous, but Legend not only keeps in touch with his folks, he also had 16 of his family members provide vocals for his song “I Don’t Have to Change.” The vocals ended up consisting of three generations of family members!
24. Gospel Sound
Legend’s first exposure to singing in front of crowds began at church, where he was a part of the choir at a young age. He was talented enough and stuck around long enough to become the musical director of a church for several years.
23. Let’s Keep This Going
In 2010, Legend collaborated with the Roots on an album, Wake Up!, that was inspired by Obama’s run to become president. It was originally only supposed to be one song, but they meshed so well together they ended up making a full album that would go on to win Best R&B Album at the Grammys.
22. Work Is Work
After graduating from college, Legend continued to perform at clubs around the city but needed a job to pay the bills, so he used his degree to get a job as a strategic management consultant for Boston Consulting Group.
21. Coolest Kid in School
Even though Legend entered high school two years earlier than normal, he was still a popular kid and was elected student body president and prom king.
20. Where Won’t He Perform
Another one of Legend’s side jobs growing up was a wedding singer. He even went back to it later on when he got famous, as fans have hired him to perform at their weddings. If they ever decide to remake the movie The Wedding Singer, Legend would be a perfect fit!
19. Lots of Options
Legend was offered scholarships from Georgetown, Morehouse, and Harvard before choosing to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study English. He would later go on to major in African American literature.
Legend has admitted that before signing with his good friend West’s record label GOOD music, he was rejected by nearly every major label in the industry.
17. Piano Man
One of Legend’s first professional music gigs came when he was asked by Lauryn Hill to play piano on her song, “Everything is Everything.” This was so early on in his career that it came before he changed his last name, so he is credited as Stephens on the song.
16. Background Actor
Anyone who is a fan of the songs “Slow Jamz” and “Gold Digger” should go back and watch the music videos, as they both contain a cameo from Legend many fans may have missed. Of course, there’s also a chance that a lot of people just didn’t know who Legend was at the time.
15. Good Luck Getting in
Legend once played the piano and provided back up vocals for Kanye West during a secret concert put on by the rapper in 2010 in New York. The show had a strict dress code for guests attending and they were only able to find out the location by calling a phone number that was e-mailed to them.
14. Triple Threat
Legend won a Grammy, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe for the song “Glory,” which he co-wrote and performed with Common for the film Selma.
13. Christ Like
Legend’s church roots came in handy in 2018 when he was chosen to play Jesus Christ in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. The show received great reviews, and critics and fans praised Legend for his performance.
12. Not Meant for Everyone
Despite Legend’s popularity and obvious talents, his songs and albums rarely top the charts. He’s only ever had one song reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart—“All Of Me”—and the highest one of his albums reached on the Billboard 200 Chart was number three for his album Once Again.
11. All Guts No Glory
Before Legend became a solo artist, he got his start writing songs for artists like Twista and Janet Jackson, as well as playing and performing on songs for those artists and others like Jay-Z and Kanye.
10. Three Down, One to Go
Legend’s role as a co-producer on the Broadway play Jitney earned him a Tony Award when the play won Best Revival in 2017. Thanks to the win, he is now just an Emmy award away from joining EGOT status.
9. Generous Donation
In 2015, Legend donated $500,000 dollars to help renovate an old theater in his hometown of Springfield, and thanks to his generous donation, the building was renamed the John Legend Theater.
8. When We First Met
Legend met his wife Chrissy Teigen in 2007 when she played his love interest in the music video for his song “Stereo.” They started dating right after and have been together ever since. Well, sort of.
7. No Hard Feelings
Although Legend only worked for Boston Consulting Group for a short period of time, they still like to bring up the fact that he used to be an employee for them. According to Legend, they even had him in their recruiting brochure for a while.
6. It’s a Nice Day for a Dog Wedding
To promote his charity, the Show Me Campaign, Legend held a wedding ceremony for his two dogs Puddy and Pippa. He even serenaded them with his hit song, “All Of Me.”
5. Everyone Deserves a Second Chance
Legend founded FreeAmerica, an organization that focuses on criminal justice reform, and in 2018, with the help of New Profit, launched the Unlocked Futures accelerator, which is a program that helps people recently released from prison start a business.
4. Musical Doctor
In 2014, Legend returned to the University of Pennsylvania to deliver the commencement speech and received an honorary Doctor of Music degree.
3. Reading Is Required
Legend had a first date with a woman where he didn’t say a word the entire time. It wasn’t some sort of challenge or anything though: He was just on vocal rest so he wasn’t allowed to speak. Instead, they stayed in and communicated by her talking and him typing out responses.
2. We Were on a Break
Early on in their relationship, Legend was stressed out on tour and told Teigen he’d be happier single, to which she simply replied, “no.” In the end, the break up lasted about half an hour before they got back together and went on to get married in 2013.
1. Obama Was Like “Pardon?”
When asked on the red carpet what was the wildest place they’d ever gotten frisky, Chrissy Teigen shocked reporters and her husband John Legend when she admitted “probably the Obama thing” and walked away. The couple later revealed the details behind the spicy answer, clarifying that it was not at the White House, that it was before Obama was president, and that it was in a bathroom at an event. Way to give the last POTUS a scare, guys.