A weekly post from my childhood to grown-up friend Carrie ~
sharing her awesome life and her desire to have community while doing it!
Happy Tuesday Tribe!
I am super excited to share our influencer with you today. So let’s jump right in.
John Stephens was born just outside Springfield, Ohio. He is one of four children, raised in church, and a natural-born musician. Gospel music and church were a regular part of life in the Stephens family.
A true child prodigy, John entered high school at the age of 12 and by the age 16 was graduating high school as the salutatorian of his class. With offers from Ivy League schools Harvard and Georgetown, John decided University of Pennsylvania was the best fit for him. There he graduated magna cum laude. John’s intelligence is absolutely stunning! His natural musical abilities and strong intellectual capacity is quite the conundrum and the more I have researched him the more my respect level has grown for him. While his talent and intelligence spoke volumes, I think the uniqueness of John’s story is that his hard work coupled with being in the right place at the right time has catapulted him to success.
So who is this John Stephens? Well John chose his stage name from an idea given to him by friends who he perceived that his voice has a old-school, classic sound. J. Ivy, a poet stated, "I heard your music and it reminds me of that music from the old school. You sound like one of the legends. As a matter of fact, that's what I'm going to call you from now on! I'm going to call you 'John Legend'.” And there it is folks, that’s how the Legend was born!
Through my research of Mr. Legend I discovered that I don’t really share many of the same views he does. I found that quite disappointing for a moment, wondering how I can feel so connected with someone and disagree with them on so many things. HA! Story of our lives! But after that moment passed, I came to the truth: I don’t have to agree with him to find value in who he is and the gift he brings to the music industry and society as a whole. Our commonality is the love of music and his passion for justice. Where we meet on the road of life is at the intersection of incredible music; he makes it and I enjoy it. There is a healthy inclusiveness that comes when you can meet someone who carries opposing views but be willing to understand where they come from and stay on that common ground with them. It’s freeing to know your boundaries with others and enjoyable to know where you stand with them.
While we don’t see eye to eye on many topics, we do share the core value of justice. His conviction for social justice and his generosity to it is beautiful, it’s well thought out, and intentional. When I see what he’s doing and listen to the songs he produces, I can feel that he is truly driven by love and moved with compassion.
Legend, who is quite intelligent and opinionated, seems to be equally humble. What I love about him is that he is walking out his dream: to be a famous musician and create change and opportunity that helps to better others. In an interview, Legend was asked what made him use his voice in a way that advocates social justice, what made him start speaking out and he responded, “I always was, I’m just more famous now, so it gets more attention.” I really appreciate that and I think it’s one of the things that has built respect for him as an artist and it causes me to evaluate myself.
Whether your platform is large or small, whether you’re at the beginning of your career or well into it, what are the things you care most about? On which values are you unwilling to compromise? Know those deeply, so that when your life grows in the direction of your purpose and opportunity comes you are solid in your yeses and unmovable in your noes.
To conclude, I have two stories to share with you. I have had the privilege of meeting Legend in person and seeing him live in concert. I remember sitting at that concert and being completely overcome with emotion. Not because I was seeing this celebrity I loved, but because it was a familiar feeling. It felt like freedom, like the colors that were dull all of a sudden were intensely vibrant. It was this feeling of encouragement and inspiration that reminded the crowd that we can be whoever we want to be. Reading that back, it sounds a little strange, but I will never forget that feeling. That moment makes me grateful for people who are willing to work as hard as they can to go after their dream or calling or purpose, whatever you would like to call it. Then there was the time I got to meet him personally. While it was a brief meeting, he so generously was fully engaged with each person there. It was like we had “our moment”. It was sweet and humbling and kind, again, a familiar feeling.
So to say I am grateful for John Legend would be accurate. His music, his passion, and his kindness has impacted my life greatly. Looking back, certain songs have gotten me through some of the more difficult moments in my life, and they have also been themes for some of the best moments.
Click the links below to share in my top Legend songs:
Thank you so much for reading! Comment below and share who has/ is inspiring you!
See you next Tuesday.