We often feature music legends on our Artists in Focus blog, but this week we’re featuring a very specific kind of legend – it’s John Legend, of course!
And he’s a legend in so many ways… John was the first ever black man to receive all four of the major awards – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. He is a highly sought-after collaborator and songwriter, actor, and now successful judge on The Voice!
Legend was born to a seamstress and a factory worker, and was an exceptionally clever child - he even skipped two years ahead in school as he was so ahead of his peers! He was offered a place at Harvard University, but turned it down for the University of Pennsylvania.
But it was only after his college days that Legend started writing, recording and producing his own tunes, releasing his first two albums on his own. Of course, like a true beginner in the industry, he sent his creations to all kinds of record labels in the hope he could garner some attention for his tracks, and it worked! Legend was introduced to Kanye West (who was only in the early days of his career at the time) and hired to sing on some of his songs.
Fun fact: JOHN LEGEND ISN’T ACTUALLY HIS NAME! It was in the Kanye West days that John Stephens earned his professional name. He was told many times that his music sounded old school and reminded people of “the legends”. Naturally, people began to call him John Legend, and the rest is history!
Prior to his first album being released, Legend had already established a successful career, and had collaborated with many huge artists. We’re talking Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill… so it’s safe to say he was a popular guy to work with. After his debut album went to number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart, and won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Legend became even more in demand, and forged more working relationships with the likes of Mary J Blige, The Black Eyed Peas and Fergie, amongst so many more. It’s safe to say that he’s got the CV which many budding songwriters dream of!
Legend Goes Gold
It was with the release of his fourth album, Love in the Future, that Legend gained himself his first number 1 hit in the US. “All of Me” knocked Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” from its 10 week stay at the top spot, and became the second best-selling song in the US for the whole year of 2014! Dedicated to his wife Chrissy Teigen, the track is a simple, tender piano ballad and is truly a stunning love song.
If you want to put your own stamp on this beautiful piece of music, then you’ll find “All of Me” in our Rockschool Piano Grade 4 syllabus. Of course, the wonderful John Legend is our cover star!
If you’ve loved getting clued up on Legend this week, then perhaps you’ll want to check out some other legends that we’ve featured?! There’s Queen, Nina Simone, Beyoncé and so many more to keep you entertained.