John Roger Stephens was born Dec. 28, 1978. Thanks to albums like Get Lifted, Once Again, and Evolver, the soulful piano man is better known as “John Legend.” Do you need a big ego to dub yourself “Legend?” Yes, but Stephens didn’t coin his epithet. Furthermore, music lore says he begrudgingly took “Legend” as a stage name. The sobriquet was given to him by poet J. Ivy because to him Stephens sounded “like one of the legends.” The real testament to Stephens’ narcissistic nom de plume is the fact that the name caught on with prominent figures within the music industry. As you can see, Stephens didn’t really have a choice. Musically, he was “John Legend.”
Legend began playing piano when he was just four years old. By the time he was seven, he was performing with his church choir. A bright kid, Legend had scholarships from several high profile colleges, including Harvard, but settled on the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, Legend met Lauryn Hill. She hired him to tickle the ivories on her song “Everything is Everything.”
It’s appropriate that Legend got his start collaborating with another musician. Working with others has been a big part of his career. He broke into the ranks thanks to collaborations with Kanye West, Magnetic Man, Slum Village, and Dilated People. And since making it big, he’s worked with West, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, The Black Eyed Peas, The Roots, and Fort Minor. He’s even worked with Michael Jackson. Legend wrote the King of Pop a song but the gloved one unfortunately died before he could record it.
Legend released his first album, Get Lifted, in 2004. The record peaked at number 13 and earned Legend three Grammy Awards including Best New Artist. His sophomore effort, Once Again, dropped in October of 2005. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and captured another Grammy Award. In 2008, John Legend introduced the world to his third studio album, Evolver. The opus, which went all the way to number five, contains contributions from a myriad of artists including Kanye West, will.i.am, Andre 3000, The Neptunes, and Brandy.
Legend’s next major work was a collaborative effort with The Roots called Wake Up! The album contains mostly cover songs—soul classics from the 1960s and 1970s—and was inspired by the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Legend’s fourth studio album, Love in the Future, hit proverbial store shelves on Sept. 3, 2013. The album was produced by Legend, West, and Dave Tozar. It contains contributions from Seal, Rick Ross, and Stacy Barthe.
John Legend tickets have been collected all over the world. He’s a consummate live performer and one of the few singers whose voice sounds better live than on a recording. Before headlining his own concert tours, Legend hit the road to support other artists. For example, in 2011 he opened for Sade during their 50-date world tour. Legend has also performed at the pregame show of Super Bowl XL and at the 2006 NBA All-Star Game. In 2012, he was one of four celebrity judges on ABC’s singing reality show Duets.
The only blemish on Legend’s otherwise spotless resume came in 2011 when he was sued for copyright infringement. A former college student claimed Legend’s “Maxine’s Interlude” ripped off his “Where Are You Now.” According to the student, he gave Legend a demo of the aforementioned “Where Are You Now” after a 2004 John Legend concert. Legend eventually settled the lawsuit out of court.