Recording artists take their time when it comes to picking their stage names. When choosing one, it’s best to pick a name that will transcend your legacy into the future. John Legend stopped by “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” on Monday, March 1, 2021, and revealed how his performance moniker came to be.
The “All of Me” hitmaker told the late-night host, “It was a nickname that some friends started calling me in the studio, just guys that I was collaborating with. The first guy to call me that was J. Ivy. He’s a spoken-word artist from Chicago.”
Born John Roger Stephens, the R&B crooner first met Ivy through Kanye West while they were working on Yeezy’s debut The College Dropout.
“We were all in the studio together. He just started calling me ‘The Legend’ because he thought I sounded like one of our old-school soul legends,” he said. “And it just caught on with our little group of friends and then they were like, ‘We should call you John Legend.’ And it just really was in our little circle.”
The Get Lifted creator also explained that it was Kanye who gave him the nudge to finally go with the new christening after referring to him publicly as John Legend on a mixtape.
“At some point,” Legend said, “I had to decide, ‘Am I going to stick with John Stephens — which I was perfectly fine with, I wasn’t looking for a stage name — or am I going to go with this more audacious name and call myself a legend before I even have a record deal?'”
During his conversation with Fallon, Legend also recalled being rejected by the television talent show “Star Search,” which ran from 1983 to 1995 with host Ed McMahon. Legend won a “Star Search” competition at a local mall in his native Ohio that submitted his tape to the show for a chance to appear nationally.
“I never got a callback, so that was that,” he said. “But I did get a $500 shopping spree at the new mall, and I bought a lot of clothes, so I was happy.”
Check out the interview on the next page as John explains how his legendary status came to be.