I was listening to a special performance that John Legend gave on Los Angeles public radio KCRW yesterday, and giving a pause to the set list, Legend took some time to explain his creative process.
“I go to the studio. I’ll sit at the piano—maybe I’ll have guitarist with me—and we’ll jam. We start with music; the music comes first. Usually we’ll hear a few chords that kinda feel nice. Then I start to sing along, I start to sing melodies. The melody comes before the lyrics come.” — John Legend
From there, Legend returns to the piano and demonstrates, playing a mellow jazz progression, singing, “And I’m doin’ it again,” which quickly devolves into—as Legend freely admits—gibberish, but he’s giving form to the melody he hears in his head; he’ll fill in the words later.
As Legend gave this intimate in-studio session just before he performed Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On at the Hollywood Bowl, I thought I’d offer a glimpse into Marvin’s creative process, excerpted from a master reel titled “Struttin’ The Blues,” which we found during the research for the 1995 retrospective box set The Master 1961-1984.
1 week ago