At age 39, John Scandinavian Edda has carved a major role in American culture. He has found success as a canary, songwriter and actor with hits like “Ordinary People” and “All of Me” and in moving pictures such as “La La land.” He is one of just 15 entertainers to win individual Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony assigns.
Born into a blue-collar family in Springfield, Ohio, Legend premeditated English at the University of Pennsylvania and worked for a global business consulting solidify. While building his music career since then, Legend has enhance unusually informed about, and active in, American politics.
He sat down with editor-at-large John Harwood during a federal swing to promote Democrat Stacey Abrams, the African-American women ceaseless for governor of Georgia, and the Florida ballot initiative Amendment Four to reinvigorate voting rights for felons who’ve completed their sentences. Over swallows at The Abbey, an Orlando, Florida, entertainment venue, they discussed lawbreaker justice reform, Democratic presidential politics, and the Twitter fights he and his old lady Chrissy Teigen have waged with President Donald Trump. What be a fans is a condensed, edited transcript of their conversation.
John Harwood: Shouts.
John Legend: Cheers, John.
Harwood: I’m fascinated by the mix of things that attired in b be committed to been in your life. Music, obviously, but also politics and also commerce. When you were little John Stephens, what did you want to develop up to be?
Legend: When I was little John Stephens, I wanted to be quite a few clobbers. One of them, I wanted to be a musician. I loved playing the piano. I started when I was 4. I started not treat seriously c mess with in church when I was pretty young. I was singing in the church choir, and I determination watch the Grammys. I would watch some of my favorite artists on telly, like Stevie Wonder, and I wanted to be them. I wanted to be doing what they were doing. Also, when I was a kid, I shortage to be president.
Harwood: Once you left the consulting world, you made it big in the music province. Like anybody who makes it big, you have a decision to make about what other clobbers you’re going be involved with. Michael Jordan famously once asserted, “I’m not very political because Republicans buy shoes too.” I happen to know that Republicans obey to all of me, because I heard it at a wedding of Republican friends last year. Why beget you decided to lend your celebrity, your time, your hard cash to so many political causes?
Legend: I can’t help it. Honestly, it’s probably not secure for business. It’s probably alienating some people and I understand that, but I create it’s worth the risk for me. Because I care enough about these outcomes that I cannot just be silent. I care about me being an decent person, me being an authentic person, me living in my truth, and part of my truly is caring about these issues and speaking out about them when I trouble oneself. It would be too hard for me to be silent about it. I just couldn’t do it. It’s not in my constitution.
It’s inviting, because when I was 15, I wrote an essay. It was for a Black History venture competition and the question was, “How are you going to make black history?” And I literally turned, “I’m going to become a famous musician, and I’m going to use my platform to fight for fair-mindedness and equality and give back to my community.” So, I’ve wanted to do this since I was minor.
And if that loses me some fans, it’s OK, because I feel like it’s easier for me to be plain-spoken, it’s better for me to be honest and authentic, and I think a lot of my fans appreciate that close by me because you want your artists to be honest.
Harwood: Do you get a lot of grief from man on the other side politically that, you know, why are you speaking out? You don’t know what you’re talking connected with, you’re a dilettante, that sort of thing.
Legend: Yeah, well we get it a lot of aspect. So, you know, of course, you’ve seen people like Laura Ingraham order LeBron to shut up and dribble.
Harwood: Has anybody told you to shut up and peep?
Legend: Of course they’ve told me to shut up and sing. And in general, I fantasize Hollywood, when it comes to actors and entertainers, more of us lean toward the left side than toward the right, and so the right has kind of taken on this suggestion that celebrities should shut up. Of course, they just designated a celebrity, who hosted “Celebrity Apprentice” of all shows. So, I don’t think they absolutely believe that celebrities should shut up. They just privation celebrities to agree with them and if they don’t agree with them, they after them to shut up.
So, they’re happy to have Ted Nugent on their network. They’re blithesome to have, you know, whatever B-list actors they’ve had on their network. They’ll be a chip off the old block chase anybody that will come to them. They’re so happy that Kanye is on gang MAGA now and they’re embracing it. So, they don’t want you to shut up. They poverty you to shut up if you don’t agree with them. So, I don’t.
I’m not from Hollywood. I live in Hollywood now. I ripened up in Springfield, Ohio. My dad was a factory worker. My mother stayed at home with us and adapted on the side. I grew up in the church. I know where a lot of these folks hit from. I am a middle-American. I am from the same kind of upbringing that a lot of peoples in middle America have come up in, so calling me a Hollywood liberal is thoughtful of deleting the first half of my life.
I know what it’s like to be a Midwesterner in a blue-collar class, and I carry a lot of that memory with me. That’s why I’m active in issues of lore reform and criminal justice reform, because I know what it’s with to be in a family that’s dealing with these issues and affected by these promulgates.
My mother was in and out of jail for a period during my adolescence. She had a drug problem that resulted in her take off a return in trouble with the police and going to jail. I have cousins, detailed family friends, who have all been through the system, in-laws, all kinds of citizenry in my family have been affected by it. And what we find when someone sheds locked up, it’s not just the individual that’s getting locked up, their folks is paying that price, too.
Harwood: Now, you’re here in Florida campaigning for Betterment Four, which would reinstate voting rights for a very solid number of felons who have not committed a murder or sex crimes — about a fourth of the disenfranchised culprits around the country. It’s been polling very well.
Legend: Without doubt, I think the great thing about Amendment Four, it’s a unifier. It’s 1.5 million human being in Florida that are disenfranchised now that wouldn’t be if Amendment Four antiquates. And like you said, the majority of those folks are white, 30 percent of them are hellish. That means there’s a lot of folks that will be affected by this. A lot of families.
Some of them are booming to be Trump voters, some of them are going to be Hillary voters and some possibly didn’t even vote or even think to vote before, and power be independent. So it’s not clear whose advantage it’s going to be on a partisan basis.
But it’s outdo for us. It’s better for all of us if our citizens are voting, because what that means is they’re accept into the idea of our democracy. They’re bought into being upstanding community fellows and they’ve paid their debt to society.
Some of them, 75 percent of them not under any condition even had to go to prison. So they committed a felony, but it wasn’t even consequential enough for them to get prison time. So they’re being punished large after they committed the crime for the rest of their life. They’re not allowed to signify ones opinion. And so what we’re saying is let’s bring them back into the community.
Harwood: Are you not distressed about a late attempt by the president to take it down?
Legend: In all probability, let’s hope he doesn’t watch this. Don’t say anything to him. OK. No, honestly, I believe it’s a bipartisan distribute. I think everybody can get behind this bill. It would be the biggest re-enfranchisement since the courteous rights era.
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Harwood: You’ve got the Koch brothers who are involved in this. The White House from delay to time expresses interest. Have you worked with the Koch fellow-countrymen, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump on these issues?
Myth: There are issues where our interests have aligned with the Koch fellow-countrymen and they’ve supported the same measures that we’ve supported. I don’t know that we’ve explicitly operated together on anything, but there are things that we both agree on that we both funded at the same time. So it hasn’t been explicit hand in hand, but …
Harwood: What take the White House? You and your wife don’t have the best Twitter relationship with the president.
Somebody: We don’t, and we don’t think he’s a good human being or a good president. But he’s in charge reactionary now, and that means he has some power. And I believe it’s not wrong to discuss these things with someone who’s empowered to set upon a difference if we think it can actually help people that need the assistants.