Before he was a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter — and long before he scored his first No. 1 single on the Hot 100 chart — John Legend was a Springfield, Ohio kid headed east to attend the University of Pennsylvania. On Monday (May 19), Legend returned to his alma mater and discussed his humble beginnings in a powerful commencement speech at UPenn.
“As a musician, this is about 10 hours before I go to work, so I’m gonna need a nap soon,” Legend joked with the new graduates on Monday morning. A few seconds later, he sang a self-deprecating remix of his smash hit, “All Of Me”: “All of you/Are so over me/You’re tired of hearing that I went to Penn/Why’d they bring him back again?” He laughed, then added, “That was my humblebrag way of saying that I have the biggest song in the country right now.”
Yet the bulk of Legend’s speech was dedicated to the importance of love, philanthropy and passion in finding your path — which the singer related to his own musical interests, which helped him overcome feeling “confused and disoriented” after the death of his grandmother and separation of his parents. “I fell in love with music at a very young age,” Legend told the crowd, later adding, “We’re taught when we’re young that the opposite of love is hate, but it’s not. Hate is a byproduct, hate is a result. Being a hater isn’t cool — nobody wants that. But hate comes from one thing: fear. Fear is the opposite of love.”
Legend’s “All Of Me” topped the Hot 100 chart for the second straight week last week, after spending 30 weeks climbing to the summit. The single comes from his fourth solo studio album, last year’s “Love in the Future.”