Also Credited As:John Stephens
|John Stephens on December 28, 1978 in Springfield, Ohio, USA|
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He was born John Stephens on Dec. 28, 1978 in Springfield, OH. At an early age, Legend started playing gospel and classical piano under the tutelage of his grandmother. He attended Springfield North High School, where he graduated as salutatorian at age 16, before going off to attend the University of Pennsylvania as an English major. While in college, Legend put in time honing his budding music career by recording CDs with an a capella group, performing solo at various talent shows and open mic nights, and working as the music and choir director at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Scranton. It was during this time when Legend met hip-hop and R&B artist Lauryn Hill, who gave him his first big break by asking him to play the piano on her hit single "Everything is Everything" (1998). Helping his exposer, he was also making the rounds on the nightclub circuit in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Legend was performing as an independent artist and distributing both his self-titled demo album (2000) and Live At Jimmy's Uptown (2001) when he was introduced by his college roommate to the then-emerging hip-hop artist Kanye West, who signed Legend as the first artist on his Getting Out Our Dreams (G.O.O.D.) label.
In 2004, Legend released his official debut album Get Lifted to critical acclaim, thanks in part to the hit single "Ordinary People," a song which he originally wrote for the Black Eyed Peas. The LP went on to win three Grammy Awards in 2006 for Best R&B Album, Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, and the coveted Best New Artist honor. On Legend's sophomore release, Once Again, he collaborated with a stable of talented producers including West and Peas' frontman, will.i.am, to produce another critically-lauded, ballad-driven album with a more adult contemporary sound, evidenced with songs such as the mid-tempo, piano-based love ballad "Save Room" and the Grammy Award-winning track "Heaven (Only Knows). It also featured one of Legend's more upbeat tracks, "PDA (We Just Don't Care), about public displays of affection. While Once Again lifted Legend's career to new heights, it also made the singer the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit in 2011. Songwriter Anthony Stokes alleged that Legend's song "Maxine's Interlude" was based on a demo track that he gave Legend following the singer's concert in 2004. Stokes claimed that he never heard back from Legend after he gave him the track and was taken aback after hearing Legend's single "Maxine's Interlude" on the Once Again album.
In between song recordings, concert tours and live performances, Legend also dabbled in acting, guest starring on the musical drama series "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05), where he portrayed Stevie Wonder, and on the HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2000-2011) as himself. He also collaborated with established artists over the years, including West, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Fergie, and Pink. For his next major release, Legend and hip-hop/neo soul band The Roots teamed up to record Wake Up!, a politically-profound R&B album where they covered songs pulled from '60s and '70s soulful music such as Marvin Gaye's "Wholy Holy" (1971) and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody" (1975). It also featured Legend's original composition, "Shine," which was included on the soundtrack to the educational reform documentary "Waiting for 'Superman'" (2010). In 2011, Legend announced his engagement to American model Chrissy Teigen, whom he had begun dating in 2007. That same year, the singer's hit song "Save Room" was included on the soundtrack to the romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love" starring Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell. In 2012, Legend landed a regular television gig on "Duets" (ABC, 2012- ), a reality competition show where seasoned artists mentored, judged, and performed with aspiring singers, all of whom were competing for a recording contract.
By Candy Cuenco