Ruben Studdard's Early Life:
Ruben Studdard was born in 1978, the son of two teachers. He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Studdard began singing in church at the age of 3. He continued to sing as he grew up and frequently was given solos to perform. Ruben Studdard was a talented football player in high school and received a scholarship to play football at Alabama A&M University.
Choosing Music Over Athletics:
Although he was a skilled football player, music was in Ruben Studdard's blood. While a student at Alabama A&M, he decided to focus on voice studies as his major. After graduating from college in 2000, Studdard joined the Birmingham jazz and soul band Just a Few Cats as a vocalist. In 2002 he decided to accompany one of the band's backup singers to an audition for the second season of the hit TV show American Idol to be broadcast in 2003.
Ruben Studdard Wins American Idol:
Ruben Studdard chose to audition for American Idol as well and he wowed the judges with a performance of Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky." With his size, weight, and laidback personality, Ruben Studdard stood in stark contrast to many of the other Idol hopefuls. The personality combined with impressive vocal skills kept him near the top of the pack throughout most of the competition. Nicknamed the "Velvet Teddy Bear" by guest judge Gladys Knight, Ruben Studdard won the American Idol finale over Clay Aiken by just over 100,000 votes out of more than 20 million cast.
Top Ruben Studdard Singles:
- 2003 - Flying Without Wings - #2 Pop
- 2003 - Superstar - #2 R&B
- 2004 - Sorry 2004 - #9 Pop
- 2006 - Change Me - #18 R&B
Sensing the publicity value of keeping the competition between Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard alive, American Idol producers engineered a simultaneous release for the debut solo singles by each. Clay Aiken won the race to #1, but Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings" sold impressively in the #2 spot. Delayed until December, 2003, the first album Soulful debuted at #1 and sold over 400,000 copies in its first week of release.
Less than a year later in November, 2004, Ruben Studdard dug into his musical background and released the gospel album I Need an Angel. The album entered the gospel charts at #1 and eventually sold over 500,000 copies. Unfortunately, it derailed Studdard's progress in pop and r&b circles and failed to generate a significant hit single.
The Return of Ruben Studdard:
For a third album titled The Return, Ruben Studdard decided to head back toward the r&b mainstream. Between his second and third release, he addressed health concerns by losing over 70 lbs. Recording the album, Studdard worked with top talent like Scott Storch, Ne-Yo, and Bryan Michael Cox. The album entered the pop chart at #8 and included the top 20 r&b hit single "Change Me."