Name at birth: John Stephens
John Legend's debut album, Get Lifted, mixed classic R&B grooves with modern hip-hop sounds (and artists) and was one of 2005's top albums, ending the year with a Grammy for Best R&B Album. Legend's career began while he was still a college student in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when he was picked to play on Lauryn Hill's "Everything is Everything" (1998). After finishing school he began playing clubs on the east coast of the United States, gaining an audience and getting the notice of recording artists and producers as an accomplished studio musician. His session work in the late '90s and early '00s included guest spots with several top recording acts, but it was Kanye West who helped Legend leap into the spotlight and a deal with Columbia Records. Legend, a piano player and singer who has also worked with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, chose from the more than three dozen songs he'd been performing in clubs to put together Get Lifted, and by the end of 2005 the album had produced hit songs including "Used to Love U" and Song of the Year nominee "Ordinary People." His next release, Once Again (2006), included the singles "Save Room" and "Heaven," and then Legend turned his focus to writing songs for the likes of Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson and Aretha Franklin. In 2015, Legend won an Oscar for producing and co-writing the theme song for the movie Selma, "Glory."
Get Lifted earned Legend a total of eight nominations; he won Best New Artist and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.