John Legend details Kanye West's influence in popularizing his stage name
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John Legend details Kanye West's influence in popularizing his stage name

If you've always had a hunch that a star musician being named John Legend at birth was too good to be true, you should trust your gut more often.

The 42-year-old was born John Stephens in Springfield, Ohio. John Legend was born much later. 

"It was a nickname that some friends started calling me in the studio, just guys that I was collaborating with," Legend said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. "This first guy that called me that was J. Ivy. He's a spoken word artist from Chicago. I met him through Kanye."

As this inner circle continued to work together in the studio, the "All of Me" crooner was often called "The Legend" because of his voice's resemblance to the soul's past icons.

He continued: "One time, Kanye put a mixtape out, and he called me John Legend on the mixtape, and it just started to spread among more of the people listening to our music. At some point, I had to decide, am I gonna stick with John Stephens—which I was perfectly fine with; I wasn't looking for a stage name—or am I gonna go with this more audacious name and call myself a legend before I even have a record deal?"

We all know which option he chose.

And it’s safe to say that he has legitimized the nickname since those early Chicago days.

Legend became the first Black man and youngest artist to become an EGOT winner, as it took him only 12 years to claim an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Not only that, the father of two has earned 11 Grammys in his career. He is nominated for two more at March 14's event—best R&B performance ("Lightning & Thunder") and best R&B album (Bigger Love). 

Megan Armstrong (@megankarmstrong) is a writer with previous work appearing in places such as Billboard, Bleacher Report, GQ and others. She's most interested in writing about people and how they live their lives, through the framework of music, entertainment and sports.

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