Gokey started singing with his family in church, but stated he would rather record mainstream music than perform solely contemporary Christian music. He has been 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. He has acknowledged the influence of Jeffrey and Robin Pruitt, the pastors of the church he works at and called his faith the “key to who I am.”
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 with some of her family members who are also musicians. The foundation includes a program to provide donated musical instruments to students.
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. Gokey‘s American Idol audition occurred only four weeks after his wife’s death in July 2008.
Gokey, along with runner-up Adam Lambert, were judge favorites throughout the season, consistently earning high praise from all four judges. Approximately a month before the finale judge Simon Cowell said that he expected Gokey would make the finale, going head to head with Lambert, but Kris Allen went on to win the season.
During Rock Week (Top 4 week), Gokey‘s take on Aerosmith’s “Dream On” was panned due to 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 solo of Richie’s “Hello,” which season 7 winner David Cook also covered during his season as a rock power ballad, 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. However, he lost to Chad James, a local Christian artist in April 2009 during his run on Idol.
As of September 2009, Danny 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 is known for his many pairs of eyeglasses that he often wore on the show, and has stated he may start an eyewear line to help raise funds for his foundation.
On September 1, 2009, Gokey announced he had signed with 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville and his country single will be released in November 2009 followed by his debut album in March 2010. The first single was originally to be “It’s Only,” written by Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, but on November 19, it was announced that this single would be withdrawn and replaced with “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me.” He will make his Grand Ole Opry debut Friday, January 8 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN.
On October 31 Gokey sang the National Anthem and performed at Half-time during a Milwaukee Bucks home game.
Contemporary Christian musician Matthew West has a song under consideration by Gokey.
Gokey is currently on a radio tour singing acoustic versions of songs from his upcoming album.
It’s been confirmed that the title of Danny‘s album will be My Best Days.
Awards and nominations
Year Association Category Result
2009 Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) Best Christian/Gospel Artist of the Year Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Tour (with American Idol Top 10) Nominated
Year Album details
2010 My Best Days
Year Single Peak positions Album
2009 “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me” A 48 My Best Days
Year Single Peak positions Album
2009 “You Are So Beautiful” 125 American Idol performance