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R&B artist, John Legend, was born John Stephens. He was given the name Legend by a friend from Chicago who thought he sounded like an old school artist.
Philly-bred singer, songwriter and pianist John Legend was born into a musical family that was active in the church. With such influence, the young Legend embraced gospel, classic soul and hip-hop. The fusion of all three currently epitomizes his unique sound.
His family moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania when he was a child. He was playing the piano and singing in the church choir from an early age. He performed and recorded with various groups as well as a solo artist while attending college at the University of Pennsylvania in
Philadelphia and subsequently became seriously involved with the area's neo-soul explosion of the late 1990s.
The musical influences of his childhood included classic Soul and Gospel singers ranging from
Stevie Wonder and
Al Green to
Shirley Caesar and Edwin Hawkins, as well as more modern acts like
Boyz II Men. He served as musical director at Bethel A.M.E. church for nearly a decade during high school and college.
Before becoming a mainstream artist, John Legend often hit the nightclub circuit in New York City,
Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, performing as an independent artist and distributing live LPs such as "Live at SOB's". It was John Legend's roommate and former classmate at Penn, Devon Harris, who introduced Legend to his cousin and then up-and-coming hip hop artist
Since that meeting, John Legend and
Kanye West have worked closely together. Legend is also signed to West's label, "G.O.O.D. Music" label. Legend sang many of the melodic hooks on Westís demo, which would eventually become the Grammy Award winning "The College Dropout" and West provided rhythm tracks for Legendís demo, which would evolve into "Get Lifted."
"Get Lifted" was his major label debut album, released by Columbia Records in 2004, although he had already amassed numerous credits, including session work with
Talib Kweli, Jay-Z,
Britney Spears, the
Black Eyed Peas and
John Legend contributed to fellow G.O.O.D artist
Common's LP, "Be."
Legend's most important musical association has been with Kanye West.
In 2003 Kanye West signed John Legend as the first artist to his production company, KonMan
Entertainment, leading to the deal with with Columbia Records.
John Legend made his debut film appearance in Loverboy with
Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei.
Asked to describe his style, John Legend says, "It's very soulful, rooted in
gospel but with hip-hop beats and unique, witty lyrics, more 'major' than 'minor', more of a 'feel good,' upbeat sound."
Awards include --
- BET Awards: Best New Artist - 2005
- 8 GRAMMY NOMINATIONS - 2006
Hit songs include --
- Ordinary People
- Save Room
- Used To Love U
- Another Again
- So High
- Slow Dance
- Number One
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