The 40 Best John Legend Quotes

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The 43-year-old Springfield, Ohio-born artist, John Legend, is known for being one of the smoothest cats in the musical scene.

The Platinum-selling Legend is also the first Black man and second youngest person ever to have won all four of the major American entertainment awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Yes, he’s an EGOT winner. He’s also a popular host on the singing competition show, The Voce. Truly, what can’t the debonaire Legend do?

But beyond the music, beyond the creativity and the artistic expression, what does the often outspoken, politically-minded Legend have to say about life and love, the world around him, his craft, and more?

Let’s dive into the 40 best John Legend quotes.

1. “There are autobiographical elements to the albums, and when I write, I always reference my own life as well as other things, so I’m just like any novelist or any fiction writer who tells stories.”

2. “I’m probably tougher on myself than I used to be. I’ll revise my lyrics more. Part of that is working with the right people and producers who will say, ‘How can you make that better?’ Allowing yourself to collaborate with people will push you toward transcendence.”

3. “Some artists I know, they would rather not see the audience or envision them. But for me, I’d rather see them. I feel like part of the reason I perform is to feel that connection. It’s the reason I love it so much.”

4. “When I write, I don’t really focus on duets or anything like that or whether I’m going to feature this or that rapper. I just focus on just making a great song and figure out the rest later.”

5. “I am a feminist. Women are discriminated against in so many ways, and they make up half the population.”

6. “When you’re releasing an album, you never know how it’s going to go. You never know how a critic is going to receive it or how much it’s going to sell.”

7. “I’ve never put out a song that I wasn’t completely proud of and that I didn’t love. In that sense, I’ve never felt like I sold out in any way.”

8. “Instead of investing our resources in locking people up, let’s invest more of those resources in our fellow citizens so they don’t end up in the system to begin with. And if they do, they can get back on their feet.”

9. “I studied African American studies, and I read these slave narratives and the escape narratives of people that were able to escape slavery and always found those stories intriguing and powerful and inspiring.”

10. “We weren’t allowed to have secular music in the house growing up. I was home-schooled, and gospel was the only choice we had.”

11. “In my neighborhood in Springfield, Ohio, there were a lot of young kids. We all played tackle football after school, but I knew very early on that I was not an athlete.”

12. “John Legend is a nickname that some friends started calling me, and it kind of grew into my stage name.”

13. “For me as a songwriter, I love when other people cover my songs.”

14. “Being married is not the same as having a kid because being married to another adult who can take care of themselves to a degree is different than having a kid that is completely dependent on you.”

15. “Hip-hop is one of the most free art forms there is. There’s so many sounds you can use, so many things you can bring in. You never know, man. I bet years ago people would’ve never said they would hear me with Rick Ross, and we did four classic songs together.”

16. “We have this film that we hope to finance, it’s called ‘Southern Rights.’ It’s a documentary about segregated proms that are still happening in the South of America. So there’s a black prom and a white prom, so we hope to finance a film soon about that.”

17. “As a kid, I wanted to be a musician but also aspired to be Andy Griffith’s lawyer character, Ben Matlock.”

18. “As a politician, you have to deal with someone wanting you to fail every day. I think I prefer being in a situation where generally people are rooting for me, and if they aren’t rooting for me, they aren’t out there to see my downfall. I respect the people who have the stomach for it.”

19. “With Tinder and all these other things, there’s always this kind of illusion with infinite choices. There’s something very cool about saying, ‘Oh, I actually really care about this person, and I want to commit to loving this person and being loyal to this person.’ You can’t get that from the kind of infinite multiple choices that are out there.”

20. “I know how it feels to be a singer who wants to get discovered.”

21. “If you look at what happened with Underground Railroad, there is so much action. There is so much intrigue; there is so much of historical importance.”

22. “Music is so crucial to every film, I think.”

23. “Artists in general never stay in the same place; we keep growing. It’s still you: you still have that core that you always had, but you work with new people and hear new things.”

24. “I remember when I first came out as an artist, back in 2004 or 2005, the record label used to take me to all the radio stations and just have me sit in, like, their lunchroom or their conference room, and play for the whole staff. Just to introduce them to me so they would play my records.”

25. “I was playing the piano when I was three, writing songs when I was ten. I had a lot of experience before I got to college. I knew I wanted to be a singer, so anyone who met me, I didn’t let too much time pass before I showed my talent.”

26. “Dr. King was unpopular while he was alive—he’s only popular now because he’s dead and not a threat to anyone.”

27. “I don’t think it’s an artist’s responsibility to be political all the time. I think your first responsibility as an artist is to make music that people will listen to and enjoy. However, I think that when you are able to say something that is moving and put it in a great song, then that is even better.”

28. “Artists are, I think in general, compassionate people, and part of what makes us artists is that we’re open-minded people, and I think we’re almost, by definition, progressive in a lot of ways.”

29. “I listen to all those kinds of music, from classic soul to hip-hop to Brazilian music to, you know, jazz to indie to alternative. So whatever. I listen to all of it. Classic rock and classic pop, all of that.”

30. “It’s really about making the best music you can make. It’s really about working hard.”

31. “In America, we have big issues with education—in impoverished communities especially. I work with Teach For All, and so we’re encouraging more people to get into teaching.”

32. “The prison-industrial complex, poverty, and the school system have more effect on a young black male in America than Jay-Z does, by far. And that’s not a diss to Jay-Z. The crime rate in the black community was high before hip-hop. Rapping about it is just a reflection of the life a lot of people are living.”

33. “The best training is to play by ear: trial by fire.”

34. “My first album, Get Lifted, was a hip-hop soul album that had some of its roots in the church, as far as the sonic choices, in the way that I sing and write songs. I have always had that as part of my background and part of my influence when I am making music.”

35. “There’s a certain confidence that comes with being sure about the way the world works.”

36. “As a young black boy, it made me proud to see black leaders that did something amazing and made the world change.”

37. “Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure.”

38. “I think the thing about love is that even though the things around us change, we as human beings, a lot of the ways we interact, and the ways we love each other is timeless. It requires trust, honesty, commitment, romance, and physical chemistry.”

39. “My first big break came with Lauryn Hill on a track called ‘Everything is Everything,’ I played piano on that track way back in 1998.”

40. “I like things that feel like they’re timeless and really well made and tailored… things that make me feel confident when I leave the house.”

Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images

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