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I listen to John Legend often. It’s not just because of his soulful voice, his insightful lyrics, his exciting ability to blend everything from gospel to pop to jazz to funk. It’s because, with all the work he does outside the recording studio—including his newest initiative, a fund that will seed businesses and nonprofits launched by formerly incarcerated would-be entrepreneurs—his music contains my own worries, my own disappointments, and my own hopes. In conversation, too, he’s as incisive, perceptive, passionate, and nuanced as his music would suggest. I’m fairly certain that, as an artist/activist/philanthropist, John has an impact on America that would hardly be improved by his taking public office. But I’m even more certain that he’s far more likely to one day be a senator than I am to ever score a record deal.
Cory Booker: Hey, John, it’s Cory.
John Legend: How are you doing, Senator?
CB: I’m doing all right. And please drop the title and call me Cory. How you holding up?
JL: I just got back from Europe, where I was preparing for my fall tour there, and we’re touring in the States this May and June.
CB: That’s great. One of the hardest things I did in 2015 was write a book, and I ended up on Spotify making this mix that I called the Legend Mix—it was 80 percent your songs. And more than you know, man, I would listen to that around the clock, just trying to motivate myself to get this book out of me. A lot of it, I think, was not just the music but knowing that you are a kindred spirit when it comes to a lot of issues I’m most passionate about.