Ready, Set, Gokey

 In Culture, Feature

Coming in third isn’t going to stop "American Idol" contestant Danny Gokey from pursuing his passion for music.

Danny Gokey—who “American Idol” judges predicted would have a spot in the finale—first caught America’s attention with his tragic back-story—the 29-year-old church worship director auditioned just four weeks after his wife Sophia died while undergoing routine surgery for congenital heart disease. Next, Gokey garnered support due to his heartfelt camaraderie with fellow contestant and longtime friend Jamar Rogers, who Gokey credits with helping him through his tragedy and forcing him to the Kansas City auditions.

Onstage, the boyishly handsome Milwaukee native became notorious for his stylish eyewear—Gokey admits to owning 50-60 pairs of designer glasses and is even rumored to be in the works to start his own line. Finally, in one of the most surprising results shows ever, was the night Gokey was shockingly eliminated just shy of making the fi nal two—what was so unexpected was that the singer had never even been in “the bottom three,” which is reserved for the three singers with the lowest votes from the previous night.

But the small defeat on “Idol” will not slow this passionate musician, who rolls into St. Louis’ Scottrade Center on August 29 as part of the 50-city “American Idols Live!” tour featuring the top 10 finalists. I caught up with the soulful singer by phone between rehearsals to get his perspective on the “Idol” experience, the judges and the tough weekly task of choosing a song.

ALIVE: What was the most valuable lesson you learned being a part of “American Idol?”
DANNY GOKEY: I learned that it’s okay to follow your dreams. It’s okay to rise up out of [a tragedy]. I took a lot of flak for that. But the lesson I learned is that if you want to come out of a situation like that, you have to make the decision to come out of it. That’s what I did.

ALIVE: Do you think your experience on “Idol” helped you heal?
DG: Absolutely. It was something to take my focus off of the hurt. Something positive, even during a tragedy, can put everything into the right perspective. It would have been easy to fall into depression [if I didn’t audition]. Music reaches past every wall, every border. It’s the language of the heart. It really can heal you.

ALIVE: Which do you think was your strongest week?
DG: The strongest week was with Jamie Foxx [also known as “Rat Pack week,” where Gokey sang “Come Rain or Come Shine”]. But my favorite week? One of the favorites was Michael Jackson week. Overall, it was just a great show. Who doesn’t love his music?

ALIVE: Can you tell us what songs you’re singing on tour?
DG: I’m singing four solos and one group song. The first song is “What Hurts the Most” [by Rascal Flatts] and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” [by Michael Jackson], plus two others.

ALIVE: How do you define yourself musically?
DG: I just want to make good music. Music that’s relatable. I never got into music to become a mega-star. Or rich. It’s what I believe my purpose is. I’ve been singing gospel my whole life; I’m still working on who I am. I’ve only been doing [mainstream music] for six months. I haven’t defined [my style] yet.

ALIVE: You’ve launched a foundation called Sophia’s Heart [to help disadvantaged children by providing medical relief, scholarships, food, shelter, clothing and even donating instruments to public schools that can’t afford them]. How is that going so far?
DG: Very, very, very well. “American Idol” has really elevated that platform. I’m taking meetings and getting funding from people who
would have never done this. Music and the foundation—those are my two passions. And hopefully success will follow because of my passion.



Craig DeCristo

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