Often credited by his real name John Roger Stephens, pop and R&B star John Legend has proved to be a master of creating his own hits as well as those he’s written with and for other artists.
Throughout his 20-year career, Legend has released seven of his own albums with hits like “All of Me,” his Common collaboration on the powerhouse anthem “Glory” from the 2014 film Selma, and more. Legend has also worked with dozens of other artists, including regular collaborations with Kanye West.
A certified EGOT—one of 16 artists (to date) who have successfully won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony—Legend has joined the ranks of Audrey Hepburn, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mel Brooks, Rita Moreno, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Nichols and the other artists who have managed to achieve the awards feat.
American Songwriter took a look at seven songs John Legend wrote for, and in collaboration with, other artists.
“I Want You,” Janet Jackson (2004)
Written by John Legend, Kanye West, Harold Lilly, Burt Bacharach
Co-written by Legend, along with Kanye West and Burt Bacharach, among others, “I Want You,” was featured on Janet Jackson’s eighth album Damita Jo, around the time of her infamous “reveal” during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Though the song, and Jackson’s other Damita Jo single “Just a Little While,” were blacklisted following the Super Bowl event, “I Want You” managed to peak at No. 4 on the Urban Adult Contemporary Chart and received a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
“American Boy,” Estelle, featuring Kanye West (2008)
Written by John Legend, Estelle, Kanye West, will.i.am, John Stephens
A hit for British rapper-singer Estelle, “American Boy” appeared on her second album Shine and featured Kanye West, who is also credited as a co-writer. The song was a breakthrough hit for Estelle in the U.S. and reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Legend also wrote several songs for and produced Shine and worked with the artist on her 2004 debut The 18th Day.
“Finally” by Fergie (2008)
Written by John Legend, Fergie, Stefanie Ridel
Co-written with John Legend and Stefanie Ridel, the ballad was featured on Fergie’s 2006 debut The Duchess. Produced by Ron Fair and Legend, the song is a narration of Fergie’s musical journey from the Black Eyed Peas to going solo and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard’s Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. Fergie and Legend also performed the song together during the 50th Grammy Awards.
“Work Out,” J. Cole (2011)
Written by John Legend, J. Cole, Kanye West, Elliot Wolff, Miri Ben-Ari, Sukmeke Rainey, Bosco Kante
Released on J. Cole’s debut Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011, “Work Out” was a fitting follow up to his 2009 mixtape The Warm Up and samples Kanye West’s “The New Workout Plan” and Paula Abdul’s 1988 hit “Straight Up.”
“Baby Come Home,” Scissor Sisters (2012)
Written by John Legend and the Scissor Sisters’ Scott Hoffman (Babydaddy), Jake Shears, Ana Kirby (Ana Matronic)
Produced by Scissor Sisters and Alex Ridha, “Baby Come Home” was featured on the group’s fourth, and most recent album Magic Hour.
“Don’t Say Goodbye,” Sérgio Mendes (2014)
Written by John Legend, Sérgio Mendes, Scott Mayo
Produced by Mendes, “Don’t Say Goodbye” features vocals by Legend and was the lead single off the Brazilian artist’s 19th album Magic.
“Listen,” David Guetta, featuring John Legend, (2016)
Written by John Legend, David Guetta, Tuinfort, Austin Bisnow, Riesterer, Evigan, Sarah Rayne, Joaquin Howard Banuelos
Off David Guetta’s sixth album of the same name, the title track was written by Legend and Guetta and a collection of songwriters.
“Hallelujah,” Carrie Underwood (2020)
Written by John Legend and Toby Gad
Written by John Legend and Toby Gad, who also worked on Legend’s 2013 No. 1 hit “All of Me,” “Hallelujah” appeared on Underwood’s first Christmas album, My Gift. Legend also appeared in the video with Underwood and was a special guest on Underwood’s televised holiday special My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood in 2020.
Photo: The Publicity Lab