Born on February 20, 1975, in Lexington, Kentucky, Brian Littrell joined the Backstreet Boys, one of the biggest pop groups ever to hit the charts, at age 18. The popular boy-band singer has also become a successful Christian music artist. Littrell is now married and a dad, and after overcoming heart health issues and surgery, runs a foundation to help families with kids facing heart-related medical conditions.
An Unhealthy Childhood
On February 20, 1975, in Lexington, Kentucky, Harold Baker Littrell II and his wife Jackie added another baby boy to their family, Brian Thomas Littrell. Born with a congenital heart problem, their younger son almost died from an infection because of his weakened heart at age 5. He found solace from his childhood medical challenges through faith and singing, combining both in the church choir. Soon, Littrell was performing in school plays and musicals, as well as weddings. He intended to attend Cincinnati Bible College on a full scholarship and become a music minister. But life had other plans.
The Backstreet Boys
In April of 1993, the high school student was unexpectedly invited to audition for a new pop group, the Backstreet Boys, by his cousin Kevin Richardson. The next day he was selected as the quintet's final member alongside Richardson, Nick Carter, AJ McLean and Howie Dorough. After making their mark in Europe, the band unveiled their 1997 debut album stateside. It sold 13 million copies with highlights like "Quit Playin' Games (With My Heart)" and "As Long as You Love Me."
Christian Music Maker
In between churning out more hits and putting on concerts, Littrell, the conservative, more straitlaced Backstreet Boys member, found time in the studio for the music he longed to create. In 2006, he released his first Christian-music album, Welcome Home. It reached No. 3 on the Christian album chart, No. 1 on the U.S. Christian Inspirational chart and No. 74 on the Billboard 200 chart. Later, Littrell won two Gospel Musical Association (GMA) Dove Awards for Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year in 2006 and 2008. He also took home a GMA Dove Award for Special Event Album of the Year in 2008.
Littrell's crooning career led him not only to fame but to his future wife too. While shooting the "As Long As You Love Me" music video in 1997, he met model/accessories designer Leighanne Wallace, an extra on set. On September 2, 2000, they wed. Two years later they had son Baylee. The grateful Littrell almost never made it to fatherhood: In 1997, he underwent open-heart surgery to fix a hole in his heart, and doctors found a hidden second one. Littrell said it was a miracle that he survived. His 7-year-old son endured his own scare, overcoming Kawasaki disease (an inflammation of the blood vessels) in 2008. Grateful for his family's health, the pop star now runs Brian Littrell's Healthy Heart Club for Kids, providing information and support to families with children contending with heart conditions.
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