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Ordinary People

by

John Legend



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about the ups and downs in a relationship: There's no such thing as a fairy tale relationship, they really take work. Legend was inspired by his parents, who divorced when John was 11 years old and got back together and remarried 10 years later. (thanks, Nikki - Chicago, IL)
In 2006, John Legend won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal for this song. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Legend co-penned "Ordinary People" with will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. He wrote about the writing of the song in the book Chicken Soup For the Soul: The Story Behind The Song: "In Spring 2004, I was going to work with will.i.am at the Hit Factory, a studio on the west side of Manhattan. We'd been writing together for the next Black Eyed Peas record. He would play me beats, see if I could come up with hooks and I'd help him write the song. We'd done it before with some success.
He started playing and eventually the chorus emerged. We had a small brainstorming session but that's all the song remained for awhile - the beat and the chorus. I liked it, but the more I thought about it, I didn't think it would be a good Black Eyed Peas song. It seemed more like something for my repertoire.
I had just gotten a record deal and was on my way to finishing my first album. I decided to keep 'Ordinary People' and worked on the piano to develop and mold it for myself rather than for a rap group.
I was on tour in Europe with Kanye West to help him perform his new album. We were playing clubs and small theaters there and, at sound check each day, I worked on the song, writing the lyrics and tweaking it. People around me heard me singing it and everyone seemed to feel that it was a great song. You never know. I worked on the lyrics and verses throughout the tour. I then worked on the bridge and it was pretty much finished by the time I got home.
When we decided that I would record the song, I had promised Will that I would let him produce it. I made a demo in Los Angeles at the Record Plant, just me and the piano. I sent it to Will and we, and everyone else who heard it, loved it the way it was. The demo was essentially the way it was when it was released."
Legend explained the song's lyrical content: "The idea for the song is that relationships are difficult and the outcome uncertain. If a relationship is going to work, it will require compromise and, even then, it is not always going to end the way you want it to. No specific experience in my life led me to the lyrics for this song, although my parents were married twice to each other and divorced twice from each other. Their relationship is, of course, one of my reference points, but I didn't write this to be autobiographical or biographical. It is just a statement about relationships and my view on them."
The song entered the top ten of the UK singles chart for the first time in April 2012 after being performed by both Becky Hill and Jaz Ellington on the BBC music reality show, The Voice. The single originally peaked at #27 in 2005.
This was included on a list of songs that Simon Cowell said he never wants to hear again at an X Factor audition. "It's never as good as the original," he said.
John Legend
John Legend Artistfacts
More John Legend songs
More songs that won Grammys

Comments (13):

Well, I believe that this song is a classic. Adam, I guess we'll see who's right ten years from now.
- Nikki, Chicago, IL
Stefanie, I hate to disagree with you, but I have already forgotten about this song... Its just not meant to be a classic. Like most songs, people just forget about them... And then they move on and talk about the next "BEST SONG EVER"...
- Adam, greenfield, IN
I think this one that people will actually remember a long time from now. I don't like most of today'smusic, but this song is an exception. It has good lyrics and a good melody.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
For the 2006 Soul Train Awards,John Legend just picked up two awards for "Best Male Album" for 'Get Lifted' and "Best Male Single" for 'Ordinary People.' He also received "The Sammy Davis Jr. Award" for 'Entertainer of the Year'
- Nikki, Chicago, IL
John Legend took home 3 Grammy Awards, and one of them was "Best Male R&B Performance" for "Ordinary People" (oh and the Niki from Chicago is not me, we're 2 different 'ordinary people')
- Nikki, Chicago, IL
John Legend is nominated for 8 Grammy Awards, and this song is nominated for "Song of the Year".
- Nikki, Chicago, IL
John Legend had the honor of performing this song on the 2005 BET Awards with his idol, Stevie Wonder, shortly after Legend won 2005 BET's Best New Artist Award.
- Nikki, Chicago, IL
I heard ordinary people and it just took me with it. John Legend sings from the heart and it comes through so clearly, a wonderful song sung with the greatest of feeling...I love it and never tire of hearing it.....
- Cathy, Locks Heath Southampton, England
I do a cover of this song in my own shows. I think it'll be one of those songs that people will actually remember years from now, a rarity for today's music.
- Elson, Los Angeles, CA
This song is one of those songs I belive EVERYONE can relate to. This song makes you feel things deep down inside... It is simple and it comes from John`s heart. I call his music for heart music.
Get Lifted album will lift you up, open your heart and recive the magic.
-Ivana, Oslo,Norway
- Ivana, OSLO , Norway
John Legend's music is absolutely phenomonal and this song alone proves it if you've never listened to his music. It's worth getting the album....it's definetly ALBUM OF THE YEAR!
- Yvette, NEW YORK, NY
This song was originally for "The Black Eyed Peas". John Legend and Will.i.am of "The Black Eyed Peas" were in the studio and John heard the track, and it was uptempo, and he came up with the hook "We're just ordinary people, we don't know which way to go.....", but the song wasn't "The Black Eyed Peas" style, so John asked to keep the song for himself, Will.i.am agreed as long as he allows Will.i.am. to produce it, so John went and recorded the song in totality with his piano and took it to Will.i.am. for him to add to it, but Will.i.am. told him that the demo was great and didn't need anything added to it, so the version that you hear on the radio and on the album was meant to be the demo, and it was done in one take; they left it raw, and it's a hit!
- Nikki, Chicago, IL
John sings a very original song with a refreshinging realistic view of relationships. The message is clear, love isn't a promise of bliss, it involves risk. I simply love it
- Dunni, Guildford, England
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