On Aug. 19 John Legend dropped by The Recording Academy headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., to perform a few songs, chat with GRAMMY.com and even pick up a surprise replacement GRAMMY Award. Legend is in the midst of a tour with the Roots supporting their new album Wake Up, a collection of classic '60s and '70s R&B. During his visit, Legend played a few solo songs at the piano, including the album's title track, originally a hit for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (and their vocalist, Teddy Pendergrass), and "Shine," the album's only original song.
"[These] songs evoke an era of activism and a time when musicians were really a part of the social movements that were happening, and their music reflected that," says Legend on why the concept of the album appealed to him.
Legend himself has always leaned toward a rich, classic R&B sound with piano-based arrangements. His roots lie in traditional gospel singing, and his piano skills landed him an early role backing Lauryn Hill on her "Everything Is Everything" track from the GRAMMY-winning The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill album in 1998. By 2004 he had formally launched his solo career with a live album, Solo Session, Vol. 1: Live At The Knitting Factory, which was followed by Get Lifted and a slew of GRAMMY Awards.
"It's great!" laughs Legend about receiving GRAMMYs. "It means that the people who know music said that you've made something that was great."