9 Times PCAs Performer John Legend Created Change With His Music

By Stephanie Wenger Nov 04, 2018 3:00 PMTags
John Legend, 2017 Billboard Music AwardsEthan Miller/Getty Images

When John Legend sings, the world listens. Beyond creating unforgettable music, the Ohio native hopes that with every song audiences take away an important message about creating change in their communities and beyond.

Throughout the course of his career, the 39-year-old performer has become involved in a wide variety of social causes in addition to creating his own non-profit, FreeAmerica, which works to reform the United States criminal justice system.

But, it's truly magical when the "All of Me" singer combines his charitable side and musical talent to encourage his fans to take action as well.  

Legend has performed songs to support causes including voting, civil rights, immigration reform, social consciousness and criminal justice reform. He often works with superstar collaborators including Linda Perry, Common, Sam Smith and The Roots to bring these tunes to life. 

John Legend to Present Bryan Stevenson With the People's Champion Award at the E! 2018 PCAs

E! announced on Thursday that the EGOT winner will take the stage at the 2018 E! People's Choice Awards to honor Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, with the People's Champion Award presented by Erase the Hate. The recipient is a public interest lawyer, who is dedicated to fighting poverty and racial injustice in the criminal justice system.

Legend will also perform as part of the award presentation, once again combining his musical clout with his philanthropic efforts. 

Check out Legend's social change anthems below and don't miss the People's Choice Awards airing live Sunday, Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. ET.

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"Get Up and Vote"

Legend joined forces with Perry to create the "Get Up and Vote" song to encourage people to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. The lyrics are all about using your voice and not forgetting to vote no matter what your political beliefs are. The University of Pennsylvania graduate posted a video of himself performing the song on Instagram and encouraged his followers to share their own versions on social media. Stars including Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, and Jewel have already joined in on the fun and posted their own renditions for the voting initiative.


The La La Land actor collaborated with Common to create this theme song for the 2014 movie, Selma. The film portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, which inspired the musicians to create a song about past and present civil rights issues in America.  The lyrics include "Truant livin' livin' in us, resistance is us/That's why Rosa sat on the bus/That's why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up/When it go down we woman and man up/They say, 'Stay down,' and we stand up." Not only was the song moving, but "Glory" earned the pair an Academy Award for Best Original Song. 

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"If You're Out There"

Inspired by President Barack Obama's presidential campaign, the "Love Me Now" performer created a tune all about creating change. Legend first performed it at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 and again at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game with Latin singer Juanes. The anthem went on to be part of the "NBA Cares" PSAs, which encourages community service.

Later that year, Legend granted the AIDS Service Center NYC the right to remix the song to help promote HIV/AIDS awareness and testing.

"Wake Up Everybody" with The Roots, Common and Melanie Fiona

Legend wants people to use their power and make the world better place. In "Wake Up Everybody," he sings about educating yourself and taking change into your own hands. This version is a remake of the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes classic. Don't miss Legend's powerful music video above!

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The Southside with You producer performed "Preach" at the Los Angeles Families Belong Together Rally, which focused on reuniting families separated at the U.S. and Mexico border, and again at the Global Citizen Festival in New York City. At both events, Legend was outspoken about taking action rather than simply preaching. The song echoes those sentiments and drives home the idea that people must stop fighting to move forward.

"Redemption Song"

Legend sang a cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" on the TED stage in 2016. The performance shed light on the work the performer does through his FreeAmerica foundation to reform the criminal justice system. He reminded the audience that our failings shouldn't define who we are.

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"In America"

The Jesus Chris Superstar Live in Concert performer uses this song to look at the complexities of the life in the United States. The song swings between hope and anger about the current state of America. The lyrics include, "They say I'm free in America/In America, in America/I still can't breath in America/Watch them squeezing my neck/Watch them bullets connect/We still gon' fight in America."

"Love I've Never Known"

Once again, Legend proves that he is all about giving back through his music with "Love I've Never Known." He allowed the Red Hot Organization, which raises money for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, to use the tune on their Red Hot + Rio 2 charity album.

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"Lay Me Down"

Legend joined Smith for a duet of the English singer's song, "Lay Me Down." The duo released the song as part of Comic Relief's Red Nose Day in 2015. The event raised funds for people living in poverty and social injustice in the United Kingdom and Africa. Check out the music video for the pair's incredible collaboration above!

PS: Don't miss Legend presenting Stevenson with the People's Champion Award at the PCAs next Sunday.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family).