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Taylor Hicks is an American singer-songwriter who rose to fame after his win on the fifth season of American Idol.
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Hicks took on a series of odd jobs to sustain himself, including a brief stint playing the Easter Bunny at a shopping mall.
Hicks' path to stardom was born out of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hicks was in New Orleans for a friend's wedding the night before the hurricane, and he received a free airplane voucher when his flight home was canceled. On an impulse, he used the voucher to fly to Las Vegas,
where the Fox reality series American Idol was auditioning for its fifth season. A relatively old contestant with even older taste in music, the gray-haired and slightly pudgy bar singer was an improbable candidate for a show dominated by pop-singing teenagers. However, Hicks' gray hair, soulful style and complete indifference to the judges' criticism distinguished him from the other contestants and earned him a large and fanatic fan base. Calling themselves the "Soul Patrol," Hicks fans organized online and clogged the phone lines during voting hours. The pandemonium over Hicks' American Idol run reached fever pitch when Alabama governor Bob Riley officially proclaimed May 16, 2006 "Taylor Hicks Day." One week later, Hicks defeated runner-up Katharine McPhee to become the fifth American Idol.
Hicks quickly converted his American Idol triumph into commercial success. Three weeks after the season finale, Hicks' first single, "Do I Make You Proud," debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles. In December 2006, Hicks released a self-titled album that debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts and was certified platinum. For a recent Idol winner, Hicks has garnered unprecedented respect from music industry veterans. He has performed with such diverse and legendary stars as Willie Nelson, The Allman Brothers, Jackson Browne, and Snoop Dogg. Record producer Matt Serletic credits Hicks' respect to the decade he spent performing in bars before making it big. He said, "Taylor really knows who he is as an artist. There is an earnestness to how he approaches singing and music you can't manufacture. He's sweated it out in bars to earn that."
Despite the fame, Hicks continues to pay homage to his musical roots. In 2008, he released Early Works, a compilation of his pre-Idol music, and a year later he released The Distance on his own independent record label Modern Whomp. He has also published a memoir, Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way (2007).
After several years in the national spotlight, Hicks claims he is still the same fun-loving, sweet tea-drinking Alabama boy he's always been. Asked in an interview how American Idol changed his life, Hicks quipped back, "N/A." Nevertheless, Hicks says he wouldn't trade the fame or the decade of struggling to get there. "I'm glad this happened right now because all of the work and time I've put in have kept me levelheaded," he said after his Idol victory. "I've dreamed about this, and now I am able to put some of those ideas into action."
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