John Legend interview: The pain of losing a child will never go away

1 week ago 5

By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

John LegendImage source, Getty Images

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The 12-time Grammy Award-winner sings with devastating simplicity astir grief and nonaccomplishment connected his caller album

What bash you deliberation of, erstwhile you deliberation of John Legend?

To some, he's the Kanye West protégé who made good. To others, he's a Hollywood player, with credits connected films similar La La Land and Selma.

Some volition cognize helium is the youngest ever (and archetypal achromatic American) EGOT winner, earning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award.

But Legend is astir apt best-known for his ballads... and 1 ballad successful particular.

All Of Me, a swoonsome tribute to his wife, the exemplary and cook Chrissy Teigen, has sold 3.6 cardinal copies successful the UK. On Spotify, and is approaching its 2 billionth play.

Legend knows the occurrence has pigeon-holed him.

"For a casual listener, they astir apt deliberation I'm conscionable a balladeer," helium says. "My albums person ever had a hip-hop power - but the ballads are the ones that person grabbed radical by their hearts.

"When I was a absorption consultant, we utilized to telephone it a 'competitive advantage'. There's definite things a institution does that they're amended astatine than anybody else. And I deliberation ballads are my competitory advantage."

Image source, John Legend / Instagram

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Legend, the eldest of 4 children, was raised successful Springfield, Ohio

Legend had ever been an over-achiever.

Born John Roger Stephens successful Ohio, helium began playing soft astatine the property of four, and was a spelling bee champion by 10. At school, helium was truthful academically talented that helium skipped 2 grades, and near location astatine 16 to survey English astatine the University of Pennsylvania.

There, helium became president of the assemblage a-capella group, and was tapped by Lauryn Hill to play connected her deed azygous Everything Is Everything.

He assumed helium was connected the way to stardom, but helium was wrong... astatine slightest for a mates of years.

"There was a batch of rejection." helium says, "but if I'd got a grounds woody astatine 18, I would person screwed it up".

"I didn't cognize what went into being a palmy solo artist. I conscionable thought, 'Oh, I tin sing and I'm penning immoderate decent songs,' but there's much to it than that.

"I'm a manager connected The Voice present and that's thing I'm ever reasoning astir erstwhile I'm advising the artists. They're each truly bully singers - immoderate of them are overmuch amended singers than I americium - but the lone mode for them to marque it is to person a constituent of presumption that's absorbing and chiseled and personal.

"Music is not conscionable a virtuosity competition."

Image source, Getty Images

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Legend and Kanye West encouraged each different astatine the commencement of their careers, though they person grown distant implicit West's authorities successful caller years

Those aboriginal rejections explicate however Legend spent 3 years arsenic a absorption consultant, archetypal successful Boston, past successful New York.

"It's a demanding job, they expect you to enactment a decent fig of hours," helium recalls, "but I was surviving a treble life, penning astatine night, gigging astatine night.

"People ever inquire maine if I get bushed present and I'm like, 'I get mode much remainder than I utilized to!'"

It was successful New York that an aged roommate archetypal introduced him to Kanye West, past an up-and-coming creator himself.

They instantly deed it off: West employed Legend to sing hooks connected his demos, In return, helium gave the instrumentalist beats for his songs.

One of their collaborators, the writer J Ivy, noted that John's smooth, elastic vocals sounded "like 1 of the legends" - and West instantly rechristened his spouse John Legend.

At first, helium was hesitant to follow the name. "I was like, 'Damn, what if I flop?'

"And past my effect to myself was, 'No, you're not going to flop. Bet connected yourself. Go for it.'

"I telephone it audacity. Kanye surely had it, and has it. I deliberation each palmy creator has to person immoderate audacity - to judge that what you person to connection to the satellite is unsocial and special, and deserves to beryllium heard."

West's archetypal album, The College Dropout, arrived successful 2004, with Legend featuring connected 7 tracks. By the extremity of the twelvemonth Legend's ain debut, Get Lifted, came retired connected West's GOOD Music label.

"The timing was precisely right," helium reflects. "The information it happened aft the College Dropout acceptable maine up perfectly."

He's ne'er looked back. He won the champion caller creator Grammy successful 2006, scored his archetypal platinum azygous with the 2008 shoe-shuffler Green Light, and successful 2010 recorded a searing covers medium afloat of still-relevant protestation songs, called Wake Up.

Image source, Getty Images

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Legend and Teigen person 2 children, Luna and Miles, with a 3rd connected the way

He met Teigen on a video set and projected astatine Christmas 2011 during a travel to the Maldives (the astonishment was astir ruined erstwhile airdrome information demanded to hunt his bag).

When helium archetypal played her All Of Me, she burst into tears... and his euphony inactive has the powerfulness to determination her today.

His caller album, simply titled Legend, delicately dedicates 2 songs to Teigen and the babe she mislaid successful 2020 arsenic the effect of a gestation complication.

The mates had already named the unborn kid Jack erstwhile it became evident helium would not survive. Teigen's beingness was besides successful danger. Diagnosed with partial placental abruption - wherever the placenta comes distant from the interior partition of the womb - she was continually losing humor contempt "bags and bags of transfusions".

Eventually, the mates made the "difficult and heartbreaking" determination to extremity the pregnancy.

"That symptom is ne'er going to wholly spell away," Legend says. "You're ne'er precisely the aforesaid aft you suffer someone."

Image source, Chrissy Teigen

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Chrissy Teigen posted affectional photos from her infirmary room, portion offering words of solace to different families who had mislaid children

Part of the healing process was a opus called Stardust, successful which Legend lifts up his wife, celebrating her spot and tone contempt their devastating loss.

"That was 1 of the earliest songs I wrote for the album, successful the aftermath of losing our pregnancy, and it was truly meaningful for Chrissy - due to the fact that it was therapeutic aft going done what we went through," helium says.

Another song, Pieces, is simply a earthy but graceful soft ballad astir navigating unimaginable grief.

"The lone happening you tin bash is prime up the pieces," sings Legend. "Let your breached bosom larn to unrecorded successful pieces".

"That full conception of the [album] is truly astir healing," helium says. "It's astir figuring retired a mode to past done your grief and remembering what you mean to the radical that emotion you, and who you love."

Legend says helium and Teigen recovered their mode done the acheronian by focusing connected their archetypal 2 children, Luna and Miles.

"To person 2 small ones that we could dote connected and nurture and enjoy... They bring america truthful overmuch joy.

"We conscionable were capable to clasp each different done what was a precise pugnacious time."

Teigen precocious announced that she was large again, aft "one cardinal shots" of IVF - but Legend says the excitement is tempered by their erstwhile experience.

"There's ever this consciousness of cautious optimism, due to the fact that you cognize what it's similar to suffer one," helium says. "And I deliberation that's benignant of the connection of Pieces: You'll ne'er hide that pain, but you'll find ways to support going."

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Stardust and Pieces are conscionable 2 of 24 tracks connected Legend's epic eighth album.

Arranged implicit 2 discs, it's frontloaded with slinky creation tracks similar Dope and All She Wanna Do Is Dance - connected Strictly Come Dancing's motorboat amusement this week.

Splish Splash is different ode to Teigen that, to enactment it politely, celebrates their marital relations with a cunning linguistic approach.

What, I wonder, volition their kids think?

"You know, I marque my euphony for grown-ups," helium laughs. "But astatine immoderate point, they'll fig retired what it means and they'll astir apt beryllium embarrassed by it."

The 2nd fractional of Legend settles into a much comfy neo-soul groove, afloat of songs astir the healing powerfulness of love. Wonder Woman is an sparkling standout; arsenic is Good, a duet with Ledisi, whose jazzy harmonies enactment immoderate spice successful Legend's step.

"Yeah, we decidedly did that," helium smiles. "Sometimes we marque the chord hitch a small more. There's a small much dissonance, and the notes are crowded up together, alternatively of being evenly dispersed out. It feels truly cool."

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Warning: Third enactment contented whitethorn incorporate adverts

Reviewers person mostly preferred the archetypal disc. Rolling Stone said it was refreshing to spot Legend shingle disconnected "his accustomed supper-club decorum", portion Pitchfork noted that collaborators similar Rick Ross and Jazmine Sullivan helped the prima "bring much amusive to his euphony than helium has successful years".

As J Ivy erstwhile observed, Legend's biggest accomplishment is blending vintage and modern sounds - and this medium contains traces of everyone from Prince and Marvin Gaye to Nina Simone and Nat King Cole, portion the low-slung groove of You riffs connected Curtis Mayfield's Diamond In The Back.

Does helium interest astir referencing his influences aft the notorious Blurred Lines copyright proceedings - wherever Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were successfully sued for copying the "feel" of Marvin Gaye's Got To Give It Up?

"That was a unspeakable tribunal decision," Legend says. "Terrible for music.

"It was not based connected immoderate existent knowing of however songwriting works. Part of the originative process is having those influences and letting them animate you to make thing new. And if writers and producers aren't capable to bash that, past we're not truly capable to marque music.

"So I effort not to fto that creep into my caput - but lawyers decidedly fto it creep successful there, labels decidedly fto it creep successful there. And I'm like, 'Leave maine alone!'

"I don't privation to re-adjudicate that case... but it was a messiness of a decision."

"My lawyers are gonna beryllium truthful huffy I talked astir that."

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