“It’s great music, it deserves to be heard,” singer John Legend told The American just ahead of his first headlining visit to The Fox Theatre back in 2009. “If they don’t believe me, come to the show and we’ll show them.”
It was a bold statement for someone less than five years into his career, but Legend already had the credentials – and the talent – to back up his words. With the endorsement of Kanye West, Legend came from behind the scenes as a songwriter and vocalist and dropped an R&B gem in the form of his debut CD “Get Lifted” in 2004.
A critical and commercial smash fueled by the mainstream crossover hit ballad “Ordinary People,” his first album earned Legend four Grammy Awards. When he hit the Fox stage with his name atop the marquee for the first time nearly a decade ago, he already had six Grammys and two follow up hit records under his belt.
Since then Legend has grown into a certified superstar who has forayed into film, television and stage as a producer. He has earned 10 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. A favorite live performer of local music lovers since his first visit to St. Louis – as an opening act for Alicia Keys at the Fox back in 2005 – Legend will make his Peabody Opera House debut next week as the headliner for the legendary benefit gala Variety’s Dinner with the Stars.
For more than five decades, Variety’s Dinner with the Stars has been a major fundraising effort for the charity that empowers children with physical and developmental disabilities – and improves their quality of life. For the seventh time, the event will be underwritten by The Steward Family Foundation, Centene Charitable Foundation and World Wide Technology, allowing all funds raised to go directly to local Variety Kids. For the 22nd year, Marylin Fox will serve as the gala’s chair. The evening will be hosted by St. Louis’ own Joe Torry, a comedian, actor, and movie producer known for using his time and talents to give back to the community.
The gala, taking place on Saturday, April 28 is the culminating festivity for Variety Week – which kicks off Saturday, April 21 with the Runway Lights Fashion Show. For that event, Union Station will be transformed into a New York-style runway. Custom dresses and a vest by Ralph Lauren designers made for Variety Kids – who will model them while using their Ameren Power Wheelchairs – will be among the featured designs.
For the gala, Legend is the latest among a long line of A-list names that include Carlos Santana, Sammy Davis, Jr., Diana Ross, Toni Braxton, Natalie Cole, Ray Charles and Lionel Richie.
In recent years, Legend branched out to earn praise for his work as a producer – including the Academy Award-winning film “La La Land,” the television drama “Underground” and the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway presentation of “Turn Me Loose,” a one-man show starring Joe Morton based on the life of comedy legend, activist and beloved St. Louis son Dick Gregory.
Yet, Legend has always kept his music a top priority, particularly providing spellbinding live music experiences. In the nearly 15 years since he has been bringing his live performances to St. Louis, he is yet to disappoint. His most recent visit to St. Louis, last year’s “Darkness and Light Tour,” was among the best concerts of 2017.
“I always want audiences to connect to the show, the music, to me as an artist and to feel my passion,” Legend said.
Variety’s Dinner with the Stars with special guest John Legend will take place at 8 p.m. (reception and dinner begin at 6 p.m. for VIP ticketholders.). STL’s own Joe Torry will host this year’s gala. For more information, and to reserve tables or tickets visit varietystl.org/dinner-with-the-stars.