Susan Boyle Biography

Singer, Television Personality (1961–)
Plucked from obscurity when she stunned the judges on the UK TV show Britain's Got Talent, Susan Boyle has gone on to great singing success.


Born April 1, 1961, in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, to Irish immigrants, Susan Boyle's singing career was launched overnight when she performed on Britain's Got Talent and showcased her incredible voice.

Early Life

Susan Boyle was born on April 1, 1961, in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, to Irish immigrants. Susan's father, Patrick Boyle, was a miner and WWII veteran. Her mother, Bridget, was a shorthand typist. Susan, the youngest of eight surviving children, was deprived of oxygen at birth long enough to cause mild brain damage. The physical trauma created learning disabilities for the young girl. But Boyle grew up in a musical family -- her father sang, and her mother sang and played the piano -- and she found comfort in music at an early age.

An industrial town of fewer than 5,000 people, Blackburn was hardly a place to nurture the young Susan's musical interests. School wasn't a refuge for Boyle either; at school she was diagnosed with learning difficulties, and she became a target for bullies. She was often mocked, and her peers called her "Simple Susie." Yet Boyle persisted with music, and began performing in school productions at the age of 12. Her teachers, recognizing her talent, encouraged her to continue performing at school, but she graduated with few academic qualifications.

Boyle landed a job in the kitchen of West Lothian College, and enrolled in several government-training programs. Boyle continued singing for pleasure, and occasionally went to the theatre to hear professional singers. It was during one of these performances that she first heard the song "I Dreamed a Dream" performed in a production of Les Miserables. "It took my breath away," she says. "It was amazing."

Singing Career

In 1995, Boyle went to Glasgow to audition for My Kind of People, a televised talent show popular in the United Kingdom. Boyle was nervous during the audition, and felt she didn't do her performance justice, but her brother theorizes that she was rejected because of her unconventional looks. She was summarily rejected from the show, but Boyle remained undeterred. She continued to sing at church, and at the local karaoke nights in her regular local pub at the Happy Valley Hotel.

Boyle suffered a personal loss in 1997, when her father passed away. After his death, Boyle put her big dreams on hold to care for her ailing mother. As the youngest -- and the only child in the family with no spouse or children -- the burden of care fell on her shoulders. The mother and daughter, who were very close, often talked of Susan's possible fame. Bridget Boyle supported her daughter's talent, and encouraged her to take part in singing competitions. "She was the one who said I should enter Britain's Got Talent. We used to watch it together," Susan later told reporters. "She thought I would win."

Encouraged by her mother, Boyle used all of her savings in 1999 to pay for a professionally cut demo tape, which she sent to record companies, radio talent competitions, local and national TV. She continued to dream of a day when the world would recognize her talent. But Boyle faced hardship yet again in 2000, when she lost her sister Kathleen to an asthma attack. She took the loss hard, and turned to her music for solace.

Boyle began taking singing lessons from voice coach Fred O'Neil in 2002, hoping to improve her chances of fame. She made several amateur recordings for benefits and local performances, but seemed resigned to only local notoriety.

In 2007, Boyle's mother passed away. The death crushed Susan, who subsequently withdrew from the local talent show and karaoke circuit. For nearly two years, Susan refused to sing. Instead, she lived alone in her mother's house with her cat, Pebbles. Now unemployed, Boyle devoted her time to volunteering with the elderly at her local church, and rarely thought of singing.

But in August of 2008, Boyle's singing coach urged her to tryout for the television talent show Britain's Got Talent. Convinced that the performance would be a final tribute to her mother, Boyle auditioned in Glasgow, Scotland. She performed a rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables on the first round of the show, which was watched by over 10 million viewers when it aired on April 11, 2009.

Boyle's humble looks provided a sharp contrast to her studio-quality voice. The performance stunned the audience and cynical judges, including American Idol producer Simon Cowell. Boyle's performance was widely reported, and the clip became the most watched video on YouTube. She soon became the dark horse favorite of the competition, and her admission on the show that she had "never been kissed" endeared her to audiences.

After the show aired, Boyle became known as "The Woman Who Silenced Simon Cowell." Her overnight fame overwhelmed the 48-year-old, and on the eve of the final show, she threatened to quit the competition. After rallying for her final performance, Boyle lost to the dance group, Diversity. Critics of the loss say that Boyle may have lost due to an internet voting scam. Regardless, Boyle continues to perform. Her first album, I Dreamed a Dream (2009) was released in November 2009. It was a huge hit, selling over a million copies in six weeks, and topping charts in the United States and United Kingdom. A year later, in November 2010 Boyle released a Christmas album titled The Gift. The Gift also soared to the No. 1 spot on U.S. and U.K. charts. Boyle's third album, Someone to Watch Over Me, was released in November 2011.

In June 2012, Boyle announced that she had begun recording a fourth album with a new producer, but hasn't released any specific details about the project. On her website, Boyle wrote to fans about her newest album: "I'm not going to give any hints at the moment, as I want this album to be more of a surprise, but I'm having a great time and I'm working with another fabulous guy, so I'm hoping you will all love this new album."

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