Christopher Ruben Studdard (born September 12, 1978), is an AmericanR&B, popand gospelsinger. He rose to fame as winner of the second seasonofAmerican Idoland received a Grammy Award nomination in December 2003 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Superstar”. In the years following Idol, Studdard has released six studio albums, including his platinum-selling debut, Soulful, and the top-selling gospel follow-up,I Need an Angel. He is most well known for his recording career, which has produced hits including “Flying Without Wings”, “Sorry 2004”, and “Change Me”, but he has also segued into television and stage work. Most notably, he toured with Robin Givens in the comedy-drama I Need a Hug and in 2008 starred as Fats Waller in a national tour revival ofAin’t Misbehavin, which spawned a Grammy-nominated soundtrack.
Studdard most recently appeared on the fifteenth season of The Biggest Loser. He is signed to Verve Records and released his last album, Unconditional Love, on February 4, 2014. His most current release Ruben Sings Luther ( a tribute to Luther Vandross) will be released March 16, 2018.
EARLY LIFE Studdard was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to American parents, while his father was stationed there with the U.S. Army, and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama.[The youngest son of two teachers, at the age of three, he sang for the first time at the Rising Star Baptist Church in his hometown of Birmingham. He continued singing gospel in church, performing solos as a child while his mother sang in the local choir. While at Huffman High School, he played football for which he received a scholarship to Alabama A&M University. While at Alabama A&M he joined the Omicron Delta chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the men’s music fraternity of America.
After growing up listening to his mother’s Donny Hathaway albums, Fred Hammond, and gospel music, Studdard began to pursue a career in the music industry, majoring in voice studies at Alabama A&M. He sang with Just a Few Cats, a popular local Birmingham jazz and R&B band founded by members of Ray Reach’sUAB Jazz Ensemble, along with other local musicians. Years later, Studdard stated: “A lot of people don’t realize how hard I was trying to get into the business before American Idol. I was making demos and just working so hard. A back-up singer from Just a Few Cats asked him to accompany her to Nashville, Tennessee for an audition on the 2003 second season of American Idol.
AMERICAN IDOL When auditioning, Studdard sang Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky”. This guided him to being one of the local finalists. On American Idol, he impressed viewers with his performances of the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett song “Superstar” (best known as a hit for The Carpenters) and the Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle duet “A Whole New World”; during his time on the show, Studdard received praise from music legends such as Lionel Richie, Neil Sedaka, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, Luther Vandross, and Gladys Knight.
During the televised competition, Studdard gained the nickname “Velvet Teddy Bear” and was noted for his shirts printed with “205”, the telephone area code of his hometown of Birmingham. Studdard also did a cover version of “For All We Know”, originally recorded by Donny Hathaway, whose music he grew up with.
He won the contest over runner-upClay Aiken in the May 2003 finale becoming the second American Idol winner. Alabama Governor, Bob Riley declared March 11, 2003 as “Ruben Studdard Day”.
2004-2005 I Need an Angel
2006-2008 The Return
2009-2010 Love Is
2010-2013 Letters from Birmingham
2013-2014 Unconditional Love
2018 -2019 Ruben Sings Luther