By Heather Salon, 700 Club
CBN.com TRAGEDY TURNED AROUND
Danny Gokey describes his life story as a tragedy that God has turned around and done something greater. He was married to his high school sweetheart for four years before she died unexpectedly in 2008 after a routine heart surgery for a congenital heart condition. Before she died, she had encouraged him to audition for American Idol. Danny followed this advice and he has embarked on a journey that he never would have planned himself. One where he has grown musically, has had an increasing vision to reach out to others, and most importantly learned how to stay rooted in God's love. He has even found love again - he remarried last January. Through it all Danny says his faith was always something to fall back on. God has always been the biggest part of his life - so real, like the air he breathes. He is now ministering hope in hopeless situations. Musically, though he has found success in country music, he does not want to be thought of solely as a country artist. He took that path for the opportunities it opened up for him, professionally and spiritually.
EARLY DAYS OF FAITH AND MUSIC
Danny was born the fifth of six children and raised in Milwaukee, WI. His family didn't have a lot of money, but they were very loving and encouraging. He was raised in the church and always believed in God. He even remembers watching the 700 Club. Danny can't remember "the moment" he accepted God, but he says he was always sensitive to God as a child. His love of music came from his parents. They introduced Danny and his siblings to a variety of sounds including Motown, jazz, and country. Danny always sang with his family. He also began singing during weekly church services at a young age. One day, Danny's father mentioned Danny could sing. It was when Danny was eleven-years-old that he realized he had a good voice. His faith and music continued to shape his adolescence, and he became the music director of Faith Builders International Ministries during his mid-twenties. Around this time, he married Sophia, whom he met in church, and lived with her for four years. He also drove a truck to make ends meet, but he knew he wanted more in life and music was his passion. Sophia was a fan of American Idol and had suggested several times that Danny audition for the show. Danny never really watched the show. However, he was nearing the cut off age of 28 and knew this might be his last shot, so he decided to audition.
AMERICAN IDOL AND BEYOND
A month before the audition, tragedy stuck. In 2008, Sophia underwent routine surgery for her congenital heart condition and suddenly died during the operation. Danny was devastated. He says he was angry at God and didn't want to go on American Idol. He and Sophia had spent four years praying and believing for her healing. One of the reasons Sophia's death was hard for Danny was because healing was something he was taught to believe. He really wanted Sophia's healing and it didn't go as planned. Danny says God's grace reached out to him and got him through. God healed him and broke him from deception and old mindsets. He says there was no specific encounter with God; there were several instances where Danny saw God and found Him. He also found solace and healing in music. Danny would let the sorrow come out, let the tears just roll. Some of the music he would listen to encouraged him to not let the grief be the thing that destroyed him for the rest of his life. Music helped him get through and still helps him get through today.
Eventually, he auditioned for American Idol, four weeks after Sophia's passing. He became one of the show's early frontrunners and ultimately finished third after Adam Lambert and Kris Allen. Danny had a great time on Idol. It was like a school that helped prepare him for the music industry. In hindsight, Danny says he wishes he had more experience. Before then, he only had experience with Christian music at his church. He learned a lot on the show and is still learning. Danny mainly stuck to gospel and soul music during his time on American Idol. However, he was urged by several people to give country music a try, which he did following the show's conclusion. Danny sees now that it was for God's bigger purpose and vision in his life and in the lives of others.
After competing on American Idol, The American Idols LIVE! Tour kept him busy until September 2009. Then he signed with 19 Recordings (in conjunction with RCA Nashville) and set to work on a country album. His first single, "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me," topped the country charts at number 29. Next, he released his debut album, My Best Days, in early 2010. Danny never intended to move to Nashville, but country music was the best way and the best decision at the time in which he found great success. Danny believes this was for God's greater plan.
As Danny was competing on American Idol, he also established a foundation, Sophia's Heart, in honor of his late wife. Danny says starting this foundation helped him heal from the loss of Sophia. Originally, the vision of the organization was to reach out to children from ages 0-18 and help restore various areas of their lives. Now, he has expanded to mend and heal the hearts of children and families who have been touched by poverty, sickness, disease, broken homes and broken dreams. Some of the ways they do this is by inspiring children's minds through music and arts programs, after school programs, helping families succeed through interventions, and restoring hope to communities. They have two locations, one in Danny's hometown of Milwaukee, WI and Nashville. For the Nashville location, a multi-million dollar building was donated which has helped the ministry. Sophia's Heart is now helping nine families, has established a music school, and helps victims of human trafficking. Danny says whatever God's purposes are for the direction of Sophia's Heart, he is open to whatever He wants. Before any more plans for expansion of the ministry, Danny first wants to get Nashville established, meet the needs of people, and go wherever God takes it. He would like his music to be the forerunner and share stories of people and connect them to Sophia's Heart.
FINDING LOVE AGAIN
Love Again isn't just the name of Danny's upcoming EP, he has found love again. Last year, he met his new wife, Leyicet, through a mutual friend. Their connection happened quickly. Danny says God aligned their steps and they married on January 29, 2012. Danny describes her as possessing the heart of God and she responds to the things God responds to. Danny says it's the best decision he's made.
His EP Love Again is being released by Danny's production company. Danny says this EP with have a lot of different flavors of music - soul, country, pop, and Christian. He will be sharing the song "Faith, Hope, and Love."
A great lesson Danny has learned is to stay close to Christ and be rooted and established in His love. He learned through his experiences that if you don't stay close to Christ, you start to be deceived. Especially if you don't have confidence in God and His love, you can be deceived and live contrary to your purpose. Sometimes trials and life's circumstances can make you doubt God's love if you are not strongly rooted in him. Also, it can be a
a challenge to stay constantly rooted His love, but if you seek the Lord in everything no matter what, you will find confidence and strength in Him.