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He is Legend (w/video)

  • John Legend performs at Hard Rock Live! at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood,Florida on April 10, 2013 (Photo by Jeff Daly/Invision/AP)

Before the nine-time Grammy winner returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night, here are the top 5 things you should know about Legend:

1. Born John Roger Stephens in Springfield, Ohio, he took on the larger-than-life nickname after a Chicago spoken word artist kept repeating it to reflect Legend's "old school" vocals. But it was Kanye West who officially crowned him "John Legend" after signing him to his GOOD Music label in 2004.

2. Legend got his big break in 1998 when he was still an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania (and still named John Stephens). A mutual friend introduced him to singer Lauryn Hill, who tapped him to play piano on the song "Everything is Everything." Her album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" went on to sell 19 million copies.

"I went back to college, and I was the man after that," Legend has said.

3. Giving back has always been a top priority. Philanthropic pursuits have included HIV/AIDS awareness, Hurricane Katrina victims, anti-poverty campaigns and feminism. Other (not so charitable) guest appearances include making sloppy joe breakfast sandwiches on an MTV "Snack-Off" competition and an upcoming commencement speech at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.

4. Kicking off in Temecula last week, the "All of Me" tour is billed as "Intimate. Acoustic. Stripped Down." In Santa Rosa, Legend will be backed by his own piano and a string quartet. That's it. If it's anything like the minimal solo show he played in Manhattan in January, he'll likely break out a few covers as well, like Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark" or the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun."

5. Legend is looking forward to writing new songs, but not the subsequent spotlight on his new marriage.

In a recent interview, he said, "If I write about relationships gone bad in the future, I worry that people will think my marriage has gone bad. Everyone is so focused on my relationship with my wife after writing a really romantic album, and it's interesting to see if people will read things into everything I write."

(Bay Area freelancer John Beck writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. You can reach him at 280-8014, john@beckmediaproductions.com and follow on Twitter @becksay.)


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