Clay Aiken

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Clay Aiken, runner-up of season two of American Idol

Clay Aiken (born Clayton Holmes Grissom on November 30, 1978) is an American pop music singer who rose to fame on the American Idol television program. He came in a close second in the contest, with Ruben Studdard winning by a narrow margin. Though technically the show's "first runner-up," he has since gone on to be the show's most popular and successful star, even more so than Studdard himself. The seasonal album Merry Christmas With Love, released on November 16, 2004, went platinum in 6 weeks.

Aiken's debut album, Measure of a Man, was released October 14, 2003. It sold over 600,000 copies in its first week, and has since gone triple platinum.

The single "Bridge Over Troubled Water"/"This Is the Night", released June 10, 2003, has gone platinum. It was the fastest-selling single since Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" and the best-selling single of 2003. It was the only single to go platinum since 2002, when "I Hope You Dance" did, after being out for over a year.

Contents

Biography

Aiken, who changed his last name from Grissom to his mother's maiden name, hails from Raleigh, North Carolina, and attended Raleigh's Leesville High School before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Although his American Idol activities temporarily delayed his academic pursuits, Aiken graduated with a bachelor's degree in special education in December of 2003. He found his interest in special education during high school, and eventually became an assistant to a boy with autism while going to school in Charlotte. It was this child's mother who urged him to audition for American Idol.

In October of 2003 Aiken released his first solo album, Measure of a Man, which debuted at #1 in the Billboard 200 and was the fastest-selling debut for a solo artist in 10 years. The album eventually went triple platinum, and spawned the hit single "Invisible." The album also contained Aiken's first hit song, "This Is the Night," which had debuted at #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot 100 Single Sales Chart. Later that year Aiken won the Fan's Choice Award at the American Music Awards ceremony, and his CD single "This Is the Night/Bridge Over Troubled Water" won the Billboard award for the Best-selling Single of 2003.

Aiken also appeared in numerous specials during the winter of 2003, including Disney's Christmas Day Parade and The Nick At Nite Holiday Special, where he sang a duet with Bing Crosby via special effects. The song was "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth", which was originally sung by Crosby and David Bowie on a 1977 Christmas special.

From February to April 2004, Aiken embarked on the "Independent Tour" with Kelly Clarkson, winner of the first American Idol contest. He was also scheduled for a few summer tour dates, but high demand ultimately led to the booking of over 50 dates across the United States, culminating in what many fans called the "Not-a-Tour". Disney's Aladdin Special Edition 2-Disc DVD was the exclusive sponsor of Clay's Summer Concert Tour. Each concert previewed Aiken's moving rendition of "Proud of Your Boy". The song was originally intended for the film but cut when the Aladdin storyline changed during production. The entire music video performed by Aiken is presented on the Aladdin Special Edition 2-Disc DVD.

In November 2004, Aiken embarked on his third tour of the year, choosing this time to focus on Christmas favorites. "The Joyful Noise Tour" featured a conductor and a 30-piece orchestra. In some cities, Aiken was supported by the local philharmonic or symphony, such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Local choirs from high schools and elementary schools participated at each concert. "The Joyful Noise Tour" was well received by fans, with sellouts or near-sellouts at every venue. "The Joyful Noise Tour"'s official sponsor was Ronald McDonald House Charities.

That same month, Aiken also released a holiday album entitled Merry Christmas With Love, which set a new record for fastest-selling holiday album in the Soundscan era (since 1991) and tied Céline Dion's record for the highest debut by a holiday album in the history of Billboard magazine. The album went platinum in 6 weeks and was the best-selling holiday album of 2004. At the same time Aiken made the New York Times Best Seller List, debuting at #2, with his "inspirational memoir" entitled Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life, written with Allison Glock, published by Random House. In December 2004, Aiken starred in his first TV special, titled "A Clay Aiken Christmas," with special guests Barry Manilow, Yolanda Adams, and Megan Mullally. He was also the executive producer for the Christmas special, which was released as a DVD later that month.

Apart from his music career, Aiken has been dedicated to advocating for education and for children's causes. His interest in autism issues led him to set up the Bubel-Aiken Foundation (http://bubelaikenfoundation.org), which supports the integration of children with disabilities into the life environment of their nondisabled peers. In addition to his role in the Bubel/Aiken Foundation (BAF), Aiken serves as an ambassador for the Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®). He first became involved with RMHC® when he participated in the 2003 and 2004 World Children's Day(TM) at McDonald's to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities® and other children's causes. During the 2004 World Children's Day, he donated a cement cast of his handprints for a charity auction, with the cast selling for over $15,000. Another item donated by the singer, an autographed apron from the same World Children's Day event, went for $5,100 in the eBay auction, bringing the total donation to RMHC by Clay's fans to more than $20,000. RMHC® were so impressed by Aiken's participation and the generosity of his fans that that they asked Aiken to be an official ambassador for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Aiken also has donated his time to multiple benefit events and concerts, including performing at the 2004 Rosalynn Carter Benefit, giving out $1,500 BAF Scholarships at the America's Promise Benefit, singing a duet with Heather Headley for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and being one of the celebrity readers for the "Arthur Celebrity Audiobook (Stories for Heroes Series)," which benefits the BAF, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), and the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN). He has also served as a spokesman for the "Stories for Heroes" series and for the 2004 Toys For Tots drive. His BAF foundation was just presented with a $500,000 grant from the US government to develop a curriculum for inclusion to be used in schools across the country. This is obviously a huge honor, especially considering this foundation is just in its second year of existence. They have already had a huge impact on many children's lives and experiences.

As a special education teacher, Aiken has also been active in lobbying Congress in favor of education. In 2004, he was appointed U.S. Fund for UNICEF National Ambassador, where he is committed to supporting education programs for children. A budding philanthropist and longtime education advocate, Aiken uses his Ambassador status to help ensure that children everywhere are afforded a primary education.

"Education is the best investment any society can make for the health and well-being of its children," said Charles J. Lyons, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "Clay Aiken, like all of our National Ambassadors, was chosen based on his compassion and deep commitment to helping children around the world. We're very pleased to have him join the UNICEF family."

Through his work with UNICEF, he participated in the NBC4 telethon which raised over $10 million and recorded public service announcements in support of South Asia tsunami relief. He later also recorded a video, featuring the song "Give a Little Bit," to be used as a public service announcement (PSA) to raise money for tsunami victims.

In March 2005 Aiken visited the tsunami-stricken Banda Aceh area as a UNICEF Ambassador to raise awareness for the need to restore education quickly to the children survivors of disasters, to provide stability. In April 2005 he appeared before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs of the Committee on Appropriations, on behalf of UNICEF. In May 2005 Unicef sent Aiken to Uganda to raise awareness for the plight of children in this civil-war torn country.

Some of Aiken's fans have been fondly referred to as "Claymates," a name that originated on the message boards during the second season of American Idol. The umbrella name including all of his many fan groups is "The Clay Nation."

Some have speculated that Aiken is gay, though he has denied such suggestions. In fact, he good-naturedly lampooned the rumors by playing a member of a gay chorus when he appeared as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live's February 7, 2004 show. [1] (http://www.saturday-night-live.com/snl/reviews/03-04/mullally/psi.html)

Discography

Studio albums

Singles released to retail

Singles charting on radio

External links

Official websites

Fansites

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