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.
John Legend: Well we have the Show Me Poverty Action Tour, which is something that Jeffrey Sachs and I are doing together with our respective teams. We decided that more college students need to be aware of what is going on in the area of sustainable development and action to fight poverty. And we wanted to enlist their help in becoming involved; using their innovative, fertile minds, and really harnessing their optimism and their energy to get around an issue that I think is one of the most important issues of our time – which is sustainable development, and specifically, really alleviating the extreme poverty that’s so prevalent in many places around the world.
And we decided, Jeffrey and I, that it was enough of a priority for us to take time out of our busy schedules, and what we do normally, to spread this message to these college students.
We’ve been to Tulane. We’ve been to Columbia. We’re going to Boston. We’re going to Miami, Florida. And I love it. It’s been fun. We did it actually yesterday at Columbia, and I truly enjoy speaking to the students. We mix it up. I perform a little bit during the event also, just to kind of sweeten the tough message that we give to the kids. And it’s been so much fun for me. I love it. It’s inspiring.
Especially with the [U.S.] election this year , you just see a lot of energy among the young people right now. People have a certain level of optimism, and hope, and energy that I haven’t seen around an election since I’ve been voting and paying attention. So it’s exciting that so many young people are civic-minded and want to make the world a better place. And we want to harness that energy for something that we think is really important, which is the fight against poverty.
We just picked one village out of the Millennium Villages which--the Millennium villages are 80 villages that Jeffrey Sachs, and Millennium Promise, and the [United Nations] are all working with, and they’re spread throughout Africa. We just chose one because we wanted to pick one project for our fund. Because I think it’s good to put it in manageable terms and, very specifically, measurable terms for fundraising so that people can be educated about what’s happening. So we decided to focus on one. We wanted to raise $1.5 million to fund a five year Millennium Village program for [Mbola] Tanzania.
That doesn’t mean other villages are being neglected. There are 80 villages that Millennium Promise is working with. But we just chose to fund one specifically so that we could be specific with our visits, with our tracking, and show people what we’re doing. And I think it gives people a sense of ownership over a sense of community, and I think it gets them more involved when it’s specific.
Recorded on: Jan 29, 2008