What is the right approach to poverty?
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: First of all, we aren’t just throwing money at the problem. We’re throwing resources at the problem. It costs money, but we don’t just hand out cash to people. We’re going in there doing specific interventions.
One of them is to improve the farming methods and the agricultural techniques to increase the yield of the farmers.
Another is to prevent malaria by using bed nets, and to fight malaria with an $.80 cure that anybody in the western world could afford, but it doesn’t get to a lot of these folks in the developing world. So we see that millions of people are dying every year due to malaria, and we know that cripples those communities. And we know that if you do a lot of other interventions, it’s not going to work if everyone is still dying and people aren’t healthy enough to work. And so we figured that providing malaria prevention and cures for malaria was important.
Also providing ARVs [antiretroviral drugs] for AIDS sufferers to allow them to live a meaningful life and live a longer life that many people in the western world with HIV and AIDS are able to live. We figured that was important.
We also believe that getting them access to clean drinking water is important. And getting young people into schools and getting them a meal during school is important.
So we’re not throwing money at the problem. We’re spending money to bring solutions to the problems. We’re not just throwing cash at it. And I think that’s important.
I also believe that what Mr. [Muhammad] Yunus is doing is really important too, and I think it’s working as well. But I don’t think there’s any one cure all solution to poverty.
I think what there needs to be is a commitment, which I don’t think, for instance, our U.S. government has shown a commitment to it. And then once you have the commitment and you really believe it’s an important defining problem, and a problem that is one of the more critical issues of our time; once you believe that, then reasonable minds can try different techniques to solve the problem. But at least you have to admit that it’s a major problem and decide that you have to throw a lot of resources at it. It’s not going to just go away. And I believe that, Jeffrey Sachs believes that, and that’s why we’re working together.
Recorded on: Jan 29, 2008
It's not about throwing money at the problem, Legend says. It's about throwing resources at it.