John Legend
Singer / Songwriter
02:02

How will this age be remembered?

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We shouldn't define our age by 9/11, says Legend.

John Legend

John Legend, is an American soul singer, songwriter, and pianist. He has won six Grammy Awards.  Born John Stephens, Legend was a child prodigy who grew up in Ohio, where he began singing gospel and playing piano at the tender age of five. Legend left Ohio at 16 to attend college in Philadelphia, and it was there that he first found a larger audience. Not yet out of his teens, Legend was tapped to play piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything" in 1998.

After completing college, he moved to New York, where he began to build a loyal following playing in nightclubs and releasing CDs that he would sell at shows. He also became an in-demand session musician, playing and occasionally writing for a wide array of artists, including Alicia Keys, Twista, Janet Jackson, and Kanye West.

It wasn't until West signed the young talent to his new label that he adopted the Legend name with 2004's Solo Sessions Vol. 1: Live at the Knitting Factory. Get Lifted, his first studio album, was released later in the year. On the strength of enduring single "Ordinary People," the album reached the Top Five of the Billboard 200. This led to three Grammy Awards: Best R&B Album, Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. Once Again, which peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and number one on the R&B/hip-hop Albums chart, followed in October 2006. Live from Philadelphia, sold exclusively at Target stores, was a successful stopgap release that predated October 2008's Evolver.

Transcript

John Legend: We’ve had a president [George W. Bush], and we’ve had a media establishment that has defined this era as one of conflict with terrorism and with the Middle East. That has been the prevailing narrative over the first decade of the 21st century. Because of 9/11, we allowed our politics to be defined basically by 9/11. And I would argue that that was a mistake, but it is what it is. That’s what happened.

And I think a lot of decisions, politicians’ candidacies, and stump speeches, and platforms have been defined by their stance on how to fight the war on terror. And I think that’s unfortunate that we’ve let terror define so many years of not only political activity, but also, you know, going to the airport, everything we do.

I think terrorism is in the back of people’s minds on some level. And I think that’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. That’s what’s happened.

I think when people write the history of this era, of the first eight years of the 21st century, I think the prevailing narrative will be the act of terrorism that happened on 9/11, and our response and our behavior in how we changed as a result of that. And that’s unfortunate.

Recorded on: Jan 29, 2008


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