Danny Gokey

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Danny Gokey
Gokey in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 8, 2009
Gokey in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 8, 2009
Background information
Birth nameDaniel Jay Gokey
Born (1980-04-24) April 24, 1980 (age 41)
OriginMilwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Blue-eyed soul
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, acoustic guitar, piano
Years active2008–present
Labels19 / RCA Nashville, BMG

Daniel Jay Gokey (born April 24, 1980) is an American gospel singer and former church music director from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the third-place finalist on the eighth season of American Idol.[1][2] After his placing on the show, Gokey signed to 19 Recordings and RCA 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.

After leaving RCA Nashville in November 2011, he gravitated his music towards an adult pop/contemporary Christian sound and subsequently made a record/publishing deal with BMG in May 2013. His second full-length album, Hope in Front of Me, was released in June 2014.

Early life[edit]

Gokey started singing with his family in church, but stated he would rather record mainstream music than perform solely Christian/gospel music. He was the worship director at his church in Milwaukee, Faith Builders International Ministries, for several years.[3][4]

He is the fifth of six children. He has a brother named Charles, and four sisters: Angela, Janell, Gina, and Tracey.[5][6]

He has acknowledged the influence of Jeffrey and Robin Pruitt, who are 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".[7] Gokey was a church music director, while also driving a semi truck[4] (18 wheeler) for a local logistics company for two years.

American Idol[edit]


Gokey rose to national fame with his participation in the eighth season of American Idol. Gokey's American Idol audition occurred only four weeks after his wife's death in July 2008.[8]

During Rock Week (Top 4 week), Gokey's take on Aerosmith's "Dream On" was planned for the extended scream with which he finished the song.[9] Gokey was the only contestant in that season who was never in the bottom two or three, but he was eliminated in third place on May 13, 2009, 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".[10]


Week # Theme Song choice Theme-related artist Order # Result
Audition Auditioner's Choice "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" Marvin Gaye N/A Advanced
Hollywood First Solo "Kiss from a Rose" Seal N/A Advanced
Hollywood Group Performance "Somebody to Love" Queen N/A Advanced
Hollywood Second Solo "I Hope You Dance" Lee Ann Womack N/A Advanced
Top 36/
Semi-Final 1
Billboard Hot 100 Hits to Date "Hero" Mariah Carey 12 Advanced
Top 13 Michael Jackson "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" Michael Jackson 3 Safe
Top 11 Grand Ole Opry "Jesus, Take the Wheel" Carrie Underwood 8 Safe
Top 10 Motown "Get Ready" The Temptations 9 Safe
Top 9 Top Downloads "What Hurts the Most" Rascal Flatts 3 Safe
Top 8 Year They Were Born "Stand by Me" Mickey Gilley 1 Safe
Top 7 Songs from the Cinema "Endless Love" – Endless Love Diana Ross & Lionel Richie 5 Safe
Top 7 1 Disco "September" Earth, Wind & Fire 3 Safe
Top 5 Rat Pack Standards "Come Rain or Come Shine"
Frank Sinatra 4 Safe

(Top 2)

Top 4 Rock and roll Duet
"Renegade" with Kris Allen
"Dream On"
Safe 2
Top 3 Judge's Choice (Paula Abdul)
Contestant's Choice
"Dance Little Sister"
"You Are So Beautiful"
Terence Trent D'Arby
Billy Preston
  • ^1 Due to the judges using their one save to save Matt Giraud, the Top 7 remained intact for another week.
  • ^2 It was only announced that Allison Iraheta received the lowest number of votes this week. The other member(s) of the bottom two or three were never revealed.

Post-Idol career[edit]

Gokey in April 2010

Gokey was nominated in his home state of Wisconsin for a WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) Award for Best Christian/Gospel Artist of the Year.[11]

As of September 2009, Gokey finished his tour with the other idols on the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2009, and he worked on his foundation, Sophia's Heart, which was set up to help disadvantaged children.[12]

Gokey, known for his many pairs of eyeglasses that he often wore on the show, had stated he might start an eyewear line to help raise funds for his foundation[13] and Match Eyewear teamed with him for the Danny Gokey Eyewear collection.[14] Launched in March 2012, the collection has exceeded sales projections with over 1.7 million in net retail sales.

2009–2010: My Best Days[edit]

On September 1, 2009, Gokey signed with 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville,[15] 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".[16] Gokey's debut album, My Best Days, was released on March 2, 2010. It debuted on the Billboard charts at number four, and it netted Gokey the best opening-week sales by a debut country male in 18 years and the highest debut of digital downloads sold by any new country artist ever.[17] In support of the album, Gokey was the opening act on Sugarland's Incredible Machine tour which began in April.[18] 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.[19]

On October 18, 2010, Gokey earned a nomination for Best New/Breakthrough Artist at the first annual American Country Awards. On November 21, 2010, Gokey was a part of ABC's pre-show event at the American Music Awards.[20]

2011–2013: Love Again and label change[edit]

Gokey released the single "Second Hand Heart" penned by Cary Barlowe, Shane Stevens and Josh Kear on July 4, 2011.[21] He was one of opening acts on Taylor Swift's Speak Now World Tour.[22] He also made an appearance in a TV movie with Candace Cameron Bure called Truth Be Told.[23][24][25][26]

Gokey left RCA Nashville in November 2011.[27]

Gokey released his EP Love Again in May 2012.[28] It was self-released limitedly via his official website only as physical CD format. His memoir, Hope in Front of Me: Find Purpose in Your Darkest Moments, was published on October 1, 2013.[29]

2014–present: Hope in Front of Me, Christmas Is Here and Rise[edit]

Gokey performing at Lifest in 2019

Gokey kicked off 2014 with the release of his new single "Hope in Front of Me" under BMG.[30]

Gokey's second album, Hope in Front of Me, was released on June 23[31] and debuted at number one on the Billboard Christian Albums chart.[32]

In late August, "Hope in Front of Me" topped both the Billboard Christian Airplay chart[33] (lasted 3 weeks) and Mediabase Christian Adult Contemporary chart.[34] For the week ending of September 20, it also topped the Billboard Christian AC Songs chart.[35]

On December 5, the official lyric video for the second single "More Than You Think I Am" was released.

In the spring of 2015, Gokey joined Natalie Grant's Burn Bright tour as a special guest, followed by The Bible Tour 2015 with Steven Curtis Chapman, Brandon Heath and Francesca Battistelli.[36]

"Hope in Front of Me" was nominated for Song of the Year at K-LOVE Fan Awards 2015, held on May 31[37] and one of award-winning songs at 2015 BMI Christian Awards, held on June 23.[38]

In July, "More Than You Think I Am" peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Christian Airplay chart.[39] In August, Gokey earned nominations for New Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for "Hope in Front of Me" at 46th GMA Dove Awards.[40]

On September 25, Gokey released the lead single "Lift Up Your Eyes" from his holiday album, Christmas Is Here, which was released on October 16.[41] In October, Gokey joined NewSong's Beating Hearts Tour with Mandisa.[42] In December, Gokey joined the 2015 K-LOVE Christmas Tour as a special guest.[43]

Rise, received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album.

Personal life[edit]

Gokey married his high school sweetheart, Sophia Martinez, on May 15, 2004.[44] The two had been together since 1997.

On July 9, 2008,[45][46] four weeks before he auditioned for American Idol, Gokey's wife died from complications during her third surgery to treat her congenital heart disease.[47][48][49] The couple had been together for 12 years, and Gokey credited her for his success.[50] Sophia was a fan of American Idol and encouraged Gokey to be a contestant,[47] and Danny started a foundation in her name, Sophia's Heart Foundation,[51] with some of her family members who are also musicians.[52] With branches in Milwaukee, Nashville and Sacramento, the organization's goals are to provide hope and help to homeless families, provide scholarships to deserving students and operate a thriving inner-city music and arts program.

In 2011, Gokey began dating Leyicet Peralta. The two announced their engagement on December 25, 2011 on the Sophia's Heart website.[53] They were married on January 29, 2012.[54] Their son Daniel Emanuel was born on January 20, 2013.[55] Their daughter Victoria Isabella was born on November 28, 2014.[56] Their son Gabriel Daniel was born on August 29, 2017. On Aug 16, 2019, their fourth child, Emmanuel, was born on the birthday of Danny's first wife.[57][58]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Result
2010 Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) Male Vocalist of the Year Won [59]
2016 GMA Dove Awards Christmas Album of the Year (for "Christmas Is Here") Won[60]
2017 Grammy Awards Best Contemporary Christian Music Album Nominated[61]
2019 K-LOVE Fan Awards Male Artist of the Year Won [62]



  1. ^ "Danny Gokey: 'Idol's' New 'Hero'". Extra. February 18, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  2. ^ "Introducing Danny Gokey: Get to know Hollywood Hopeful Danny Gokey." American Idol. Archived May 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "American Idol finalists are church worship leaders" Associated Press via WNCT, February 20, 2009. Archived April 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b Sun, Eryn (December 27, 2011). "Former American Idol Finalist Danny Gokey Engaged". The Christian Post. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  5. ^ "Danny Gokey Biography". TV Guide. Archived from the original on April 2, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  6. ^ Wiggins, Leslie Anne. "American Idol Top 36: Danny Gokey". WITI-TV Fox 6. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  7. ^ "Milwaukee's Gokey wows judges, makes 'Idol' finals" Tim Cuprisin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 18, 2009.
  8. ^ "Danny Gokey — "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" Audition — American Idol 8". Rickey.org. January 14, 2009. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  9. ^ Cantiello, Jim (May 7, 2009). "'American Idol' Rock Week Makes Us Scream On Like Danny Gokey". MTV. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  10. ^ "Top 2: Lionel Ritchie and Danny Gokey jam – The Marquee Blog – CNN.com Blogs". Marquee.blogs.cnn.com. May 20, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  11. ^ Head, Chrystina (April 28, 2009). "East Troy Singer Beats Danny Gokey at WAMI Awards". WITI-TV Fox 6. Archived from the original on May 12, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  12. ^ Gokey, Danny (October 1, 2013). "Outreach to homeless is my calling, my dream for Sophia's Heart is to make it a 'Harvard' for the homeless". Fox News Opinion. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  13. ^ Borzillo-Vrenna, Carrie (2009-05-15). "American Idol's Danny Gokey Sees Rosy Future in Glasses". E! Online. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  14. ^ Shapiro, Rachel (March 26, 2012). "American Idol's Danny Gokey Launches Eyewear Collection". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  15. ^ "American Idol's Danny Gokey Signs to 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville". CMT. 2009-09-02. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  16. ^ Mansfield, Brian (2009-11-19). "Danny Gokey switches singles". USA Today. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  17. ^ "Danny Gokey Achieves Best First-week Album Sales by a Debut Country Male in 18 Years (press release)". Rendy Lovelady Management. March 10, 2010. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  18. ^ Don Walker (February 9, 2010). "Gokey to tour with Sugarland". jsonline.com. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on February 13, 2010.
  19. ^ "Darryl Worley's Tennessee River Raises $200,000". Country Music Television. September 27, 2010. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  20. ^ Thompson, Gayle (2010-10-25). "Danny Gokey, Jennette McCurdy to Host AMA Red Carpet". The Boot. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  21. ^ Mansfield, Brian (July 15, 2011). "Country dominates week's 'Idol' track sales". USA Today. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  22. ^ Mansfield, Brian (March 3, 2011). "Danny Gokey added to Taylor Swift's summer tour". USA Today.
  23. ^ @dannygokey (January 25, 2011). "Twitter". twitter.com.
  24. ^ @candacebure (January 25, 2011). "Twitter". twitter.com.
  25. ^ @candacebure (January 25, 2011). "Twitter". twitter.com.
  26. ^ "Danny Gokey to Appear in New Movie Truth Be Told". Taste of Country. February 2, 2011.
  27. ^ Thompson, Gayle (November 21, 2011). "Danny Gokey Parts Ways With RCA Records". The Boot. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  28. ^ Mansfield, Brian (December 16, 2010). "Danny Gokey planning new single for early 2011". USA Today.
  29. ^ "Hope In Front of Me: Find Purpose in Your Darkest Moments by Danny Gokey | 9781612914756 | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble". Barnesandnoble.com. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  30. ^ "artistspotlight | American Idol's Danny Gokey Releases New Single 'Hope in Front of Me'". Christian Activities. 2014-01-06. Archived from the original on 2015-11-18. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  31. ^ "Danny Gokey Win It Before You Can Buy It | WJTL FM 90.3 - Christ. Community. Music". Wjtl.com. 2014-06-16. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  32. ^ Fred Bronson (July 4, 2014). "'American Idol' on the Charts: New Album 'Hope' Brings Danny Gokey First Billboard No. 1". The Hollywood Reporter.
  33. ^ "Chart Highlights: Sam Smith's 'Stay' Hits No. 1 On Pop Songs". Billboard.
  34. ^ "USA TODAY's airplay charts". USA TODAY. 15 October 2012.
  35. ^ "Chart Search - Billboard". billboard.com.
  36. ^ "The Bible Tour 2015". thebibletour2015.com.
  37. ^ "K-LOVE Fan Awards". K-LOVE.
  38. ^ "2015 BMI Christian Awards Celebrates Christian Music's Best Songs, Songwriters and Publishers". BMI.com. 24 June 2015.
  39. ^ "Chart Search - Billboard". billboard.com.
  40. ^ "Nominees | The 47th Annual GMA Dove Awards". Doveawards.com. Archived from the original on 2016-01-11. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  41. ^ "Danny Gokey - Christmas Is Here - Amazon.com Music". Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  42. ^ [1] Archived September 11, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ "2015 KLOVE Christmas Tour". klovechristmastour.com. Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  44. ^ Lamb, Bill (2009). "Danny Gokey". About.com. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  45. ^ "RootsWeb: Database Index". ancestry.com.
  46. ^ "'Sophia Linnette Gokey Obituary'" Archived 2012-04-26 at the Wayback Machine Church and Chapel Funeral Services, July 2004.
  47. ^ a b "Milwaukee man says he's prepared to give his all to make 'Idol' finals" by Tim Cuprisin, Feb. 13, 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  48. ^ "'Idol's grieving Danny Gokey hopes to lighten up" Jill Serjeant, Feb 19, 2009, Reuters.
  49. ^ "American Idol Selects First Three Finalists", AP story run in the New York Times.
  50. ^ "‘Idol’s’ Danny Gokey: My Wife ‘Is The Reason For My Success’" Access Hollywood, February 20, 2009.
  51. ^ "Danny Gokey Photo Gallery" WITI February 18, 2009 Archived May 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ "Sophia's Heart". Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  53. ^ "'Latest News: Danny & Leyicet Engagement Announcement'" Archived 2012-01-05 at the Wayback Machine Sophia's Heart, December 25, 2011.
  54. ^ "American Idol's Danny Gokey Is Married : People.com". PEOPLE.com.
  55. ^ O'Donnell, Kevin (January 21, 2013). "Danny Gokey Welcomes Son Daniel Emanuel". People. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  56. ^ "Danny Gokey Welcomes Second Child". Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  57. ^ "A Quartet! Fourth Child on the Way for American Idol Alum Danny Gokey and Wife Leyicet".
  58. ^ "Danny Gokey Welcomes Third Child". www.newreleasetoday.com. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
  59. ^ "WAMI Award Winners". The Post Crescent. April 13, 2010. p. A-6. Retrieved 5 June 2010.[dead link]
  60. ^ "2016 Winners". doveawards.com. October 11, 2016. Archived from the original on April 7, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  61. ^ "Danny Gokey". GRAMMY.com. 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-08-16.
  62. ^ "Winners". K-LOVE Fan Awards. Retrieved 2019-06-11.

External links[edit]