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John Legend and The Roots Re-Work Classics on ‘Wake Up!’

Diana Levine

To create his fourth studio album, ‘Wake Up!’ John Legend enlisted the creative guidance of production veterans, The Roots, which has resulted in an album laced with soulful renditions of classic ’60s and ’70s songs, in addition to the project’s sole original track ‘Shine.’

Production on ‘Wake Up!’ began in 2008, when it was merely intended to be a one-track addition to Legend’s previous album, ‘Evolver.’ The BoomBox caught up with the six-time Grammy winner in the studio as he put the finishing touches on this new album. Legend took time to explain the motivation behind his latest body of work.

“It’s an album full of socially-conscious songs about empowerment, songs about struggle, songs about standing up for your rights and believing in something bigger than yourself,” Legend explains. “Songs about love, connecting people, believing in one another and believing that we all are valuable and that we all have something to offer in the world.”

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After putting in a mindful effort to select tracks that were still relevant to the contemporary social and political climate – yet not too mainstream — ‘Wake Up!’ now features a tracklist that includes covers of songs such as Ernie Hines‘ 1970 classic ‘Our Generation,’ Donny Hathaway‘s ‘Little Ghetto Boy’ and Marvin Gaye‘s ‘Wholy Holy.’ The album’s lead single, ‘Wake Up Everybody,’ is a rendition of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes‘ 1975 classic, which features vocals from Common and Melanie Fiona.

“I think the content will be interesting to a lot of people,” Legend says. “The idea of me and The Roots collaborating is going to be interesting to some people that may not have always had their ears perk up for a John Legend album. Or to some people who’s ears didn’t perk up for a Roots album. It may grab an audience that might not have bought either of our albums individually.”

‘Wake Up!’ is currently set for a September 21 release and can be pre-ordered here. Check out our behind-the-scenes footage with John Legend in the studio.

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