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John Legend poster

John Legend

A prodigious musical performer often tagged as neo-soul, John Legend (born John Stephens in Springfield, OH) began learning piano and singing gospel tunes at age five. Upon finishing high school early (at age 16), Legend enrolled at a Philadelphia-area university and caught his first taste of commercial success given his prominent appearance as a pianist on the 1998 Lauryn Hill tune "Everything Is Everything". After college, Legend moved to New York and struck gold in the Manhattan-area music scene, with session appearances on albums by artists including Kanye West (who gave Legend his stage name), Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson; Legend's debut solo album, Get Lifted, emerged in late 2004 and made him an instant sensation. The immediate follow-ups -- 2006's Once Again and 2008's Evolver -- received equal acclaim. The majority of Legend's early on-camera appearances were, unsurprisingly, tied to his music. These included the concert films John Legend: Live at the House of Blues (2005), Tony Bennett: An American Classic (2006), and John Legend: Live from Philadelphia (2008). With the 2008 comedy Soul Men, however, Legend branched out into acting roles; he was cast opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac as musician Marcus Hooks.