John Roger Stephens (born December 28, 1978), better known by his stage name John Legend, is an American singer, songwriter and actor. He has won nine Grammy Awards, one Golden Globe and one Academy Award. In 2007, Legend received the special Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Prior to the release of Legend's debut album, his career gained momentum through a series of successful collaborations with multiple established artists. He sang in Magnetic Man's "Getting Nowhere," Kanye West's "All of the Lights", on Slum Village's "Selfish" and Dilated Peoples' "This Way". Other artists included Jay-Z's "Encore", and he sang backing vocals on Alicia Keys' 2003 song "You Don't Know My Name", the Kanye West remix of Britney Spears' "Me Against the Music", and Fort Minor's "High Road". Legend played piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything". He has gained chart topping hits from his solo work as well, including the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, "All of Me". He won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2015 for writing the song "Glory" from the film Selma.
He is one of four children of Phyllis Elaine Nova Jackson (née Lloyd), a seamstress, and Ronald Lamar Stephens, a factory worker and former National Guardsman. Throughout his childhood, Legend was homeschooled on and off by his mother. At the age of four, he performed with his church choir. He began playing the piano at age seven. At the age of twelve, Legend attended North High School, from which he graduated four years later. Upon his salutatorian graduation, Legend was offered admission to Harvard University and scholarships to Georgetown University and Morehouse College. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied English with an emphasis on African-American literature.
While in college, Legend served as president and musical director of a co-ed jazz and pop a cappella group called Counterparts. His lead vocals on the group's recording of Joan Osborne's "One of Us" received critical acclaim landing the song on the track list of the 1998 Best of Collegiate a Cappella compilation CD. Legend was also a member of the prestigious senior societies Sphinx Senior Society and Onyx Senior Honor Society while an undergraduate at Penn. While in college, Legend was introduced to Lauryn Hill by a friend. Hill hired him to play piano on "Everything Is Everything", a song from her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
During this period, he began to hold a number of shows around Philadelphia, eventually expanding his audience base to New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. He finished college in 1999, and thereafter began producing, writing, and recording his own music. He released two albums independently; his self-titled demo (2000) and Live at Jimmy's Uptown (2001), which he sold at his shows. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Legend began working as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. During this time, he began working on his demo and began sending his work to various record labels. In 2001, Devo Springsteen introduced Legend to then up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West; Legend was hired to sing during the hooks of West's music. After signing to West's label, he chose his stage name from an idea that was given to him by poet J. Ivy, due to what he perceived "old-school sound". J. Ivy stated, "I heard your music and it reminds me of that music from the old school. You sound like one of the legends. As a matter of fact, that's what I'm going to call you from now on! I'm going to call you John Legend." After J. Ivy continued to call him by the new moniker "John Legend," others quickly caught on, including Kanye West, and the name stuck. Despite Legend's reluctance to change his stage name, he eventually announced his new artist name as John Legend.