Who is Ruben Studdard?
Christopher Ruben Studdard is an American gospel, pop and R&B singer. He won the second season of America’s most popular singing talent show ‘American Idol’, and also earned a Grammy nomination. His talent was first acknowledged in the church choir, which motivated him to major in Music. He has delivered some of the most promising albums of all time, which include ‘Soulful’, ‘I Need an Angel’ and ‘Love Is’. After gaining recognition he steered into the world of television and films with guest appearances in ‘Life on a Stick’, ‘All of Us’ and ‘Scooby Doo: Monsters Unleashed’. He became a reality show star once again on the NBC weight loss show ‘The Biggest Loser’, losing almost a total of 119 pounds. During his career he has collaborated with megastars such as Stevie Wonder and Eric Benet, and has earned a platinum selling debut album to his name. Most of his singles, especially ‘Flying Without Wings’, ‘Superstar’ and ‘Change Me’ have made it to the top of the US Billboard music chart.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born Christopher Theodore Ruben Studdard on 12th September, 1978 while his father was posted at Frankfurt, Germany with the US Army. His mother, Emily is an elementary teacher while his father Kevin is a secondary teacher and entrepreneur.
He is the youngest of his siblings and grew up at Birmingham in Alabama. At the age of three he first began singing in the choir of a local Baptist Church along with his mother.
His mother encouraged him to sing and often made him participate in plays, choir competitions and musicals. He attended ‘Huffman High School’ and was a part of its football team.
After high school, he received a sports scholarship to Alabama A & M University. However, upon enrolling he changed his major to music studies and graduated from the university in 2000.
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He began his career by singing with a local jazz band ‘Few Cats’. He frequently recorded demos for several music production houses, but never landed an album. Eventually, he heard of ‘American Idol’ from a companion and travelled to Nashville to audition for the reality show.
He claimed fame on the second season of ‘American Idol’, with his performance of ‘Superstar’ and ‘A Whole New World’ and was referred to as the ‘Velvet Teddy Bear’.
In May, 2003 he performed ‘A House Is Not a Home’, ‘Imagine’ and ‘Flying Without Wings’ on the show’s finale and went on to win the season with his competitor, Clay Aiken losing by 134,000 votes.
After the show, his first single ‘Flying Without Wings’ aired on radio. Soon after, his debut album ‘Soulful’ received a million pre orders and was ranked number one on the ‘Billboard 200 album chart’.
In 2004, he announced the release of his first gospel album ‘I Need an Angel’. The album claimed the number one position in the US Gospel charts. He also performed the song ‘Shining Star’ in the film ‘Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed’.
By 2006, he had recorded his third album which was solely dedicated to the R&B genre. Before the release of the album, the first single ‘Change Me’ hit radios and placed first on the US Urban Contemporary chart.
His album was titled ‘The Return’ and did fairly well, however it fell short of the excellent reception his first two albums had received. The following year he performed on American Idol season 6.
For season seven of the show, he performed the song ‘Celebrate Me Home’ at the 2008 finale of American Idol at the ‘Nokia Theatre’. The song was produced by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam.
On 19th May, 2009 his fourth album titled ‘Love Is’ was released under the banner of ‘Hickory Records’. His first single of the album ‘Together’ was a ballad and received great feedback. The album comprised mainly of cover songs and a couple of original singles. Following the success of the album a collection of his hit songs were released entitled ‘Playlist: The Very Best of Ruben Studdard’. It hit music stores on 31st March, 2010.
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Ruben signed a record deal with ‘Shanachie Entertainment’ in 2011. By 2012, he released his fifth album ‘Letters from Birmingham’. In the album, the duet song with Chrisette Michele titled ‘Do It Right’ climbed the US music charts.
In 2013, he joined the NBC reality show ‘The Biggest Loser’ in its fifteenth season. He was the heaviest of all contestants at 462 pounds and left the competition weighing 343 pounds.
He worked on his fifth album ‘Unconditional Love’ simultaneously, which released on 4th February, 2014. He performed his lead single ‘Meant to Be’ from the new album on the show’s finale.
The album was released under the label of ‘Verve Records’ and comprises of cover songs of legendary stars such as Donny Hathaway, Bonnie Raitt, Marvin Gaye and Paul McCartney, whom he idolized.
His debut album sold over four hundred thousand copies in the first week of its release. The album was certified platinum by RIAA. His single ‘Sorry 2004’ from the album placed second on the Billboard R&B singles chart and reached the ninth spot on ‘Billboard Hot 100’.
His album ‘Love Is’ placed at number 36 on the ‘Billboard 200 Music Album Chart’ within a week of its launch. It climbed up to fifth place on ‘Independent Albums’ and snuggled into the eight spot on US R&B/Hip-Hop Album Chart’.
The album ‘Unconditional Love’ also brought glory to him as it was considered an album of “exuding grace, confidence and class” by critics. It reached number seven on ‘Billboard R&B Albums Chart’ and settled at rank 46 on ‘Billboard 200’.
Awards & Achievements
Ruben Studdard won his first award at the ‘Teen Choice Awards’ in 2003 for ‘Choice Male Reality/Variety Star. The following year he took home the ‘NAACP Award’ for ‘Outstanding New Artist’.
He was also nominated at the most prestigious music awards, ‘The Grammy’s’ in the category of ‘Best Male R&B Vocal Performance’ for the song ‘Superstar’. However he lost to venerated R&B icon, Luther Vandross.
Personal Life & Legacy
After he won the second season on ‘American Idol’, Alabama Governor, Bob Riley announced that 11th March, 2003 would be observed as ‘Ruben Studdard Day’.
Studdard has created his own music foundation for ‘Advancement of Children in the Music Arts’. The foundation seeks to expand the role of music in education for the development of students, mainly in Birmingham area.
He is also the spokesperson for the educational program ‘Be Sickle Smart’ that seeks to spread awareness of toxic iron levels in people living with a sickle-cell disease.
Ruben married Surata Zuri McCants in 2008 but after three years the couple filed for divorce and the couple parted ways in 2012.
In 2015, he received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Alabama A&M University at their annual ceremony.
Studdard lost 70 pounds on a strict vegetarian diet between his second and third album.