Ruben Studdard Biography
The album features Ruben’s versions of Extreme’s classic hit “More Than Words” and Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It.” The first single, “Together,” produced by Stargate, reached Top 15 on the Urban AC chart. "Don’t Make 'Em Like U No More", the follow up to “Together”, is a sleek and soulful R&B ode to everyone's special someone. It also was #1 most added at Urban AC Radio. Another original song on the album is “A Song For Her,” a very personal song co-written by Ruben for his wife, Surata Zuri McCants, whom he met at a Wal Mart signing in 2006.
A new album and a new family are just part of the picture for Ruben in 2009. He starred in a 30th anniversary production of the Fats Waller musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It was Ruben’s first musical theater work since he was in a high school production of “Grease.”
“Fats was a cool cat,” says Ruben. “I loved getting dressed up, sitting at the piano and winking at the girls, just like he did.” Ruben also loved being on the road with Frenchie Davis and Trenyce, who were both contestants with him on the second season of “American Idol.”
Ruben Studdard was born Sept. 12, 1978, in Frankfurt, Germany, where his father was stationed in the United States Army. Ruben was nine months old when his mother brought him home to Birmingham. His musical talent was evident early in life: he was a three-year-old pre-schooler when he started singing at the Rising Star Baptist Church. As a member of the Cherub Choir, he sang a majority of the solo vocals, making his debut with “I’m Yours Lord.”
By the age of seven he was singing at school, in various churches and at banquets and local functions. His mother was a fan of Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and the O’Jays and Ruben learned to sing their songs. “I was the number one New Edition fan and in middle school I switched over to Boyz II Men. My father bought a lot of records, and that’s how I heard John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I became a big jazz fan.”
In high school, Ruben joined the football team as an offensive tackle. “I loved to sing and play sports so I went back and forth between the two,” he recalls. “But sports were just recreation for me. I became serious about singing and learning everything I could about music.”
In ninth grade, Ruben was a member of the mixed ensemble choir, the male chorus and the concert choir and sang in a male quartet called Eternal Harmony. “We did a lot of talent shows around Birmingham and achieved some popularity but I don’t think anyone will remember us now.”
Ruben majored in music at Alabama A&M University where his studies included opera. “Can you believe that!” he exclaims. “I loved Pavarotti and I worked very hard at becoming an opera singer. I was going to get an agent but in my sophomore year I joined a gospel group, God’s Gift. I left school after two-and-a-half years to pursue a career in gospel music. We worked at it seven days a week. It seemed like it was about to happen. Then everything came to a standstill.”
Ruben moved on, joining a group called Just a Few Cats. “A girl who was one of our background singers wanted to audition for ‘American Idol’ but she didn’t want to go by herself,” Ruben remembers. “She asked me to go with her and I didn’t want to, but I went just to support her.”
They drove to Nashville and she didn’t make it through to the second round of auditions. But Ruben did. “Once I was actually there trying out, I felt like I could really do something. I just gave it my best shot.”
Everyone knows what happened next. Simon, Paula and Randy sent Ruben to Hollywood, where he advanced from a semi-final round into the top 12 and quickly became America’s favorite, surviving every elimination to win the title of “American Idol” in a dramatic finale on May 21, 2003.
Ruben’s impact on the charts was immediate. His single “Flying Without Wings” debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100 while his version of “Superstar” peaked at No. 2 on the R&B chart. In December 2003, his first album, “Soulful,” had advance orders of over a million copies, automatically qualifying for platinum certification. The record entered The Billboard 200 at No. 1. A follow-up single, “Sorry 2004,” reached No. 9 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the R&B chart.
Ruben’s next album was “I Need An Angel,” released in November 2004. The sophomore set topped Billboard’s gospel chart and was the magazine’s No. 1 gospel album of the year.
Ruben’s third album, “The Return,” found him back in the top 10, peaking at No. 8 on The Billboard 200 and No. 2 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The first single, “Change Me,” spent an impressive eight weeks at No. 1 on the Adult R&B list.
As well as he has done on the charts, Ruben has also earned his share of awards and nominations. In 2004, he won the NAACP’s Image Award for Best New Artist. That same year, he was nominated for Favorite Male Soul/R&B Artist at the American Music Awards, Best Male R&B Performance at the Grammys, Best New Soul/R&B or Rap Artist at the Soul Train Awards and Best New Artist and Best Male R&B Artist at the BET Awards. The following year Ruben was nominated as Best Gospel Artist at the BET Awards.
It’s been an amazing six years for the man from Birmingham and he feels blessed to have experienced it all. “My grandmother used to tell me that the race is not given to the swift nor to the strong but to the one that endures to the end. I feel like I’m on a course to have a very long career. I just completed my fourth album and a lot of people don’t get to that point. I’m a very happy man.”
Ruben’s mother has long been an advocate for the local chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA) and was active in getting their community church involved in raising awareness of the disease. As a result, Ruben has been aware of the hardships of patients, especially African-American patients, suffering from sickle cell disease (SCD), including a serious and under-recognized condition called iron overload.
“I’ve made it my goal to do what I can to help people suffering from the disease by working with and speaking for the Be Sickle Smart program, to inspire and empower them and to take action for their health and be screened for iron overload due to blood transfusions,” says Ruben.
Be Sickle Smart is a community-health program that educates people with SCD about the risk for a serious and under-recognized condition called iron overload. “I’m making several appearances across the country on behalf of the program and I have penned an original song, titled “I Am a Fighter,” that I hope will become the anthem for those participating in Be Sickle Smart,” says Ruben. “My intention with the song is to inspire people with SCD to keep fighting and to take action for their health through education.”