His inspiration comes from Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and other old school soulsters, but John Legend channels their spirit, not their form. Still, on 2010’s Wake Up he interpreted old socially conscious soul and R&B, while his new album Love In The Future goes, in the wake of his recent marriage, for love songs. They, especially in the ballad form, are his true forte, even though he is an urgent political activist.
Born in Ohio in 1978, John got lessons in gospel piano from his mom, but also received classical lessons. Having first got his university degree in African-American literature, he started to write and perform his own songs and put out two albums by himself. At the time John got his artist name from poet J. Ivy, who was reminded of old school soul legends by his singing. At first John resented the name, but when his new collaborators, like Kanye West and Alicia Keys, started to use it, he accepted it. Success came with his first major label album Get Lifted (2004). The upward swing continued on Once Again, Evolver and Love In The Future. The latter’s funkiest song, Who Did That To You (feat. rapper Rick Ross) ended up on Tarantino’s Django’s soundtrack.