November 30, 1978 - Raleigh, North Carolina.
Quote From Clay Aiken:
"It's important that I make a difference in some way. It's not necessarily how I make a difference, but I want to make sure that I do."
Trivia Fact About Clay Aiken:
Clay Aiken sang the Dolly Parton / Kenny Rogers hit "Islands In the Stream" at a high school dance at age 5.
Clay Aiken was born Clayton Holmes Grissom but later changed his last name to his mother's maiden name. Aiken's birth father was a violent alcoholic who left him and his mother when Clay Aiken was one year old. By the age of five Aiken was performing in public. As a teenager he began appearing in a wide range of locally produced musicals, and he became a member of the Raleigh Boys Choir.
Clay Aiken's Career In Education:
When the time came to enroll in college, Clay Aiken did not choose to pursue music. Instead he chose to pursue his interest in special education. This interest blossomeed when Aiken worked as a counselor at YMCA camps for kids with special needs. As a college student he took a part-time job working with an autistic child, and the child's mother, Diane Bubel, urged Clay Aiken to audition for American Idol.
American Idol Auditions:
Clay Aiken did not sail through the audition process for American Idol and was viewed as an unlikely finalist prospect. He was deemed to have a nerdy appearance that was distinctly unlike what anyone imagined for a pop star. However, when he opened his mouth to sing it turned a number of heads. Clay Aiken slipped into the finalist pool as a "wild card" helped significantly by a soulful performance of Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me."
American Idol Finalist:
Once Clay Aiken made it to the finalist pool, he was quickly viewed as a favorite to win. American Idol producers gave him a makeover that accented the positive features of his appearance. His crooning style of performing won over millions of viewers, from the very young to elderly fans who rarely paid attention to current pop music. Ultimately, Ruben Studdard won the competition, but that did not stop Clay Aiken from becoming a pop star.
Clay Aiken's Charitable Work:
Outside of his music career, another element of Clay Aiken's work that endears him to fans is his comment to charitable causes. His interest in issues surrounding autism led to the founding of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation for support of integration of children with disabilities into the environment of their non-disabled peers. In addition, Aiken has donated performances to countless benefits and served as an advocate for children in difficult situations.
Best-Selling First Single:
Clay Aiken's first single "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with "This Is My Night" was released in June 2003. It was the fastest selling single since Elton John's "Candle In the Wind," released after the death of Princess Diana. It also became the first platinum selling single since Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" went platinum in 2002.
Career As a Pop Star:
The success of Aiken's first single laid the groundwork for his first solo album. The eagerly awaited Measure Of a Man appeared in October 2003. The album sold over 600,000 copies in its first week of release making it the fastest selling debut album in 10 years. Clay Aiken made a number of television appearances in support of his music, including a well-received stint as musical guest on Saturday Night Live in February 2004.
After a year of nearly non-stop touring, Clay Aiken released a Christmas album Merry Christmas With Love in November 2004. The album went platinum in 6 weeks and was the biggest selling holiday album of the year. Aiken also entered the bestselling book business with Learning To Sing: Hearing the Music In Your Life, cowritten with Allison Glock. After some time off from the music business, he reappeared with the Jukebox tour, a collection of songs from the last 50 years. It kicked off in the summer of 2005.
Clay Aiken's appearance on the American Idol Season 5 finale show kicked off anticipation for the release of his next solo album. A Thousand Different Ways was preceded by the single "Without You." The album itself headed to record stores for a September 19, 2006 release date.