A legend came into Barbados last week, John Legend that is. Like most legends who walk softly, but allow their work to speak volumes, John was true to form.
Strolling into his interview session donning a pair of cargo shorts, and plaid shirt, John was every bit as relaxed and at ease as his music often makes you feel. After the introductions and a firm handshake and a little small talk, John got down to the business of interviews.
While his moniker, Legend, is one that he chose for his musical career, (his real name is John Stephens) it has never been a more fitting representation of the artiste. In less than a decade he has cemented his place on the music scene winning six Grammy awards, releasing three chart-topping albums that have wowed audiences with his velvety vocals and soulful lyrics. Though he has made a name for himself worldwide, John still holds true to himself at his core.
“I won’t let the music change me but you change in life no matter what you do, as you grow and mature,” he said. “Certainly you have the experience of being a celebrity of travelling the world, of making a lot more money than you thought you would ever make before in your life. All of those things certainly have an impact on our life, though you hope they don’t change the core of who you are, or your character.”
But John’s character in many ways is larger than his music, though it is an integral part of him. He has a muti-faceted persona as a political activist, humanitarian, and advocate for education and that vision resonates in everything he does.
In 2007, he started the “Show Me Campaign” and partnered with The Gap’s “Project Red” initiative. In the year that followed, he would also become heavily active in President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, where his performances of If You’re Out There and Yes We Can at the Democratic National Convention stood out as classic moments in that nation’s
“My organisation, the “Show Me Campaign”, we do work in schools but it’s just not about music we focus on low-income communities in America, but it’s also Africa, developing water-access points and helping people to empower themselves and better their lives,” John said.
“The work we do in general is for people who are living in poverty giving them the power to help themselves.”
Judging from John’s background it’s easy to understand why his range of interests are so extensive. He was offered scholarships to Harvard University, Georgetown University and Morehouse College, though he ended up going to the University of Pennsylvania where he studied English and African-American literature.
“I read about politics, I follow politics and when I have something to say I say it,” he said.
“I have opinions, I have thoughts and everyone is entitled to their own and everyone is entitled to agree or disagree with me on the merits of what I think,” he said.
Recently he made headlines after verbally sparring with New York real estate mogul Donald Trump, after his barrage of negative comments on President Obama and his much-talked about birth certificate.
“I said plenty about Donald Trump . . . . I think he makes a mockery of himself and I think President Obama dealt with him very well at the White House Correspondents Dinner,” he said. “I was happy to be there, that was fun and when everything happened with Osama bin Laden the next day it put things in perspective as to the importance of carnival barkers like him.”