Daniel Jay "Danny" Gokey (born April 24, 1980) is an American country music singer and church music director from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the third place finalist on the eighth season of American Idol. After his placing on the show, Gokey signed to 19 Recordings and RCA Records Nashville at the beginning of a career in country music, releasing the single "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me." His debut album, My Best Days, was released in March 2010.
Gokey started singing with his family in church, but stated he would rather record mainstream music than perform solely contemporary Christian music. He was the worship director at his church in Milwaukee, Faith Builders International Ministries, for several years.
He is the fifth of six children. He has a brother, Charles, and four sisters, Angela, Janel, Gina, and Traci .
He has acknowledged the influence of Jeffrey and Robin Pruitt the pastors of the church he worked at and also Matthew Barnett the founder of the LA Dream Center. He has stated that his faith is the "key to who I am." Gokey then spent two years on the open road as a freight driver..
Gokey rose to national fame with his participation in the eighth season of American Idol. On August 8, 2008, he auditioned in Kansas City, Missouri, along with his friend Jamar Rogers, who is also from Milwaukee. Both made it through to Hollywood, but Rogers was eliminated from the competition prior to the semifinals. (Rogers later appeared on the second season of NBC's The Voice.) Gokey's American Idol audition occurred only four weeks after his wife's death in July 2008.
During Rock Week (Top 4 week), Gokey's take on Aerosmith's "Dream On" was panned for the extended scream with which he finished the song. Gokey was eliminated during Top 3 week, after his performance of Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful."
During the season 8 finale on May 20, 2009, Gokey performed a duet with R&B superstar Lionel Richie. The performance opened with Gokey singing a true-to-the-original soulful ballad solo of Richie's "Hello," and then Richie joined Gokey for a duet of his hits "Just Go" and "All Night Long".
Gokey was nominated in his state of Wisconsin for a WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) Award for Best Christian/Gospel Artist of the Year.
As of September 2009, Gokey has finished his tour with the other idols on the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2009, and he is also working on his foundation, Sophia's Heart, which was set up to help disadvantaged children.
Gokey, known for his many pairs of eyeglasses that he often wore on the show, has stated he may start an eyewear line to help raise funds for his foundation. In 2012 he released his eyewear collection.
My Best Days (2009–2010)
On September 1, 2009, Gokey signed with 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville, becoming the first third place finisher to record with 19 and the first male Idol to be signed to a major country label. On November 19, 2009, 19 Recordings and RCA Records announced the release of the debut single "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me". Gokey's debut album, My Best Days, was released on March 2, 2010. It debuted on the Billboard charts at number four, and it nets Gokey the best opening-week sales by a debut country male in 18 years. Gokey also has the highest debut of digital downloads sold by any new country artist ever. In support of the album, Gokey will be the opening act on Sugarland's Incredible Machine tour which began in April. Gokey also performed at country singer Darryl Worley's ninth annual Tennessee River Run festival in Savannah, Tennessee along with other artists such as Joe Diffie and Lee Brice. The event helped raise $200,000 for the Darryl Worley Foundation.
On October 18, 2010, Gokey earned a nomination for Best New/Breakthrough Artist at the first annual American Country Awards. He revealed in an interview released on October 26, 2010, that he had recently recorded his own version of the Amy Grant song, "Tennessee Christmas," to be released to country radio as a holiday single..
On November 21, 2010, Gokey was a part of ABC's pre-show event at the American Music Awards.
Second studio album (2011–present)
Gokey released the single "Second Hand Heart" on July 4, 2011. As of July 15, 2011, the song has sold 8,000 copies.
He was one of opening acts on Taylor Swift's Speak Now World Tour. He also made an appearance in a TV movie with Candace Cameron Bure called Truth Be Told.
Gokey left RCA Nashville in November 2011.
Gokey released his EP "Love Again" in May 2012. It was self-released limitedly via his official website only as CD format.
Danny stated that will kick off the New Year with the release of his new single, "Hope in Front of Me," on January 24. The song shares its name with Danny's inspirational memoir "Hope In Front Of Me," which was released on October 1, 2013.
Gokey married his high school sweetheart, Sophia Martinez, on May 15, 2004. The two had been together since 1997.
On July 9, 2008, four weeks before he auditioned for American Idol, Gokey's wife underwent routine surgery for congenital heart disease. It was her third surgery, but she died from complications. The couple had been together for 12 years, and Gokey credited her for his success. Sophia was a fan of American Idol and encouraged Gokey to be a contestant, and Danny started a foundation in her name Sophia's Heart Foundation with some of her family members who are also musicians. The foundation exists to help mend and heal the hearts of children and families who have been touched by poverty, sickness, disease, broken homes and broken dreams.
In 2011, Gokey began dating Leyicet Peralta. The two announced their engagement on December 25, 2011 on the Sophia's Heart website. They were married on January 29, 2012. Their son Daniel Emanuel was born January 20, 2013.
Awards and nominations