Was it really almost 10 years ago that the big-voiced, big-boned singer that Gladys Knight dubbed “the velvet teddy bear” won “American Idol?” Yes, Birmingham’s own Ruben Studdard took that coveted prize in 2003, and he’s still going strong.

His latest album, “Letters From Birmingham,” is a concept album inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.” We think King would be proud of the association, as Studdard is not just a crooner, but an philanthropist who has started a foundation to help kids get scholarships and become a tireless advocate for sickle cell anemia awareness.

Here’s more on today’s “In-Studio Jam” artist.

BORN: Christopher Theodore Ruben Studdard in Frankfurt am Maim, Germany.

BIG BREAK: Becoming the “American Idol” of 2003. Studdard actually accompanied a friend to the Nashville auditions. His rendition of “Ribbon in the Sky” made him a local finalist, and then he went on to win the show.

EDUCATION: Alabama A&M, where he went not on a music scholarship but a football scholarship.

BACK STORY: Although he went to Alabama A&M on a football scholarship, he was a voice major. He was already singing in a local Birmingham, Alabama jazz band and making demos when he was called to the “Idol” stage.

RESUME: Studdard has released four CDs since his “Idol” victory, scoring one gold and one platinum CD.

FUN FACTS: A vegan diet helped Studdard lose 80 pounds. Ironically, the crooner’s 2008 video for “What If?” shows him leaving his home due to an IRS seizure, and he’s recently been hit with a tax lien. (Maybe a sign not to keep things too real in your videos?) Studdard is the founder of the Ruben Studdard Foundation for Advancement of Children in the Music Arts, a foundation that gives scholarships to high school students who want to major in the arts in college.

LATEST WORK: “Letters from Birmingham,” out next Tuesday.

ON FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruben-Studdard/143133862391661

ON TWITTER: @rubenstuddard

ON MYSPACE: http://www.myspace.com/rubenstuddard


“Sorry (For 2004)”

“What If?”

“You’re All I Need to Get By,” duet with Studdard and Jordin Sparks

“Celebrate Me Home,” on “American Idol” finals

“Superstar” (from “American Idol” in 2003)


“‘Letters from Birmingham’ is the first time I actually got an opportunity to all the way control a project. The title is kind of self explanatory. What I tried to do was make the album play like a movie. There are about four different scenes that are narrated by letters in beginning, and there are subsequently songs that coincide with the theme of the letters. It’s just great music. The songs are amazing. You know what I like to say about the album – it’s a complete relationship progression from the introduction to the courtship to the romantic to the breakup and all of that. To me, every time I listen to it, I feel like I’m inside of a movie. Have you seen the movie ‘The Notebook?’ It’s kind of like that. I enjoy it. I think the fans are going to love it; I think they have been waiting on me to do music like this since I came out. It’s difficult to do exactly what you want to do when you have to listen to the powers that be all of the time.

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