Daniel Jay "Danny" Gokey (born April 24, 1980) is an American country music singer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the third place finalist on season 8 of American Idol.[1][2] After his placing on the show, Gokey signed to 19 Recordings and RCA Records Nashville as the beginning of a career in country music, releasing the single "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me." His debut album, My Best Days, was released in March 2010.

Personal Life[edit | edit source]

A devout evangelical Christian, Gokey started singing with his family in church, but stated he would rather record mainstream music than perform solely contemporary Christian music. He has four sisters and a brother.

In July 2008, four weeks before he auditioned for American Idol, his wife Sophia underwent routine surgery for congenital heart disease. It was the third surgery she had, but she died from complications. They had been together for eleven years and he credits her for his success. Sophia was a fan of the show and encouraged Gokey to be a contestant. He started a foundation, Sophia's Heart, in her name with some of her family members who are also musicians. The foundation includes a program to provide donated musical instruments to students.

Gokey has acknowledged the influence of Jeffrey and Robin Pruitt, the pastors of the church he works at, and said his faith is "key to who I am."

On January 29, 2012 Gokey married model Leyicet Peralta, whom he had been dating since 2011. The couple have two children, son Daniel Emanual(born on January 20, 2013) and daughter Victoria Isabella(born on November 28, 2014) . 

American Idol[edit | edit source]

Gokey rose to national fame with his participation in the eighth season of American Idol. On August 8, 2008, he auditioned in Kansas City, Missouri, along with his friend Jamar Rogers, who is also from Milwaukee. Both made it through to Hollywood, but Rogers was eliminated from the competition prior to the semifinals. Rogers would later go on to audition for the NBC singing show The Voice. Gokey was recently nominated in his state of Wisconsin for a WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) award for Best Christian/Gospel Artist of the Year. However, he lost to Chad James, a local Christian artist in April 2009 during his run on Idol.

Danny Gokey is known for his big, powerful vocals, his energetic stage demeanor, and his soulful, emotional renditions of songs during American Idol which was part of his appeal. He is the only contestant who has never been in the Bottom Three, an honor he shares with 5 of 8 winners of the show. However, like Melinda Doolittle of season 6 and Angie Miller of season 12, he was eliminated in third place on May 13, 2009, despite never having been in the Bottom 3.

Journey On American Idol[edit | edit source]

Gokey auditioned for American Idol only four weeks after his wife's passing in July 2008. Possibly due to discussing Sophia's death and openly grieving during his audition, as well as what some felt was too much screen time given to him early in the season, Gokey became a target for much online criticism, but was able to maintain his frontrunner status in spite of this, through his energetic and emotional performances that included Mariah Carey's "Hero", Rascall Flatts' "What Hurts the Most", Michael Jackson's "Pretty Young Thing", and the Rat Pack hit, "Come Rain, Come Shine". Gokey, along with runner-up Adam Lambert, were judge favorites throughout the season, consistently earning high praise from all four judges. Many people, including judge Simon Cowell, who told him during Top 3 week that his vocals were "master class," and even professional oddsmakers, expected Gokey would make the finale, going head to head with Lambert, but low-keyed acoustic singer Kris Allen eventually overtook both of them, and won the season.

During Rock Week (Top 4 week), Gokey's take on Aerosmith's "Dream On" earned him even more criticism due to not nailing the extended high note at the end of the song. Gokey became the pick of the week of Vote for the Worst during Top 4 week and was eliminated during Top 3 week, despite his high-rated performance of Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful," which reduced judge Paula Abdul to tears when he reprised it after being eliminated. Some have speculated that his elimination may have been due to Paula Abdul's obscure song choice for him that week, the little-known dance song, "Dance Little Sister" by Terence Trent D'Arby, which Gokey had never heard before.

During the season 8 finale on May 20, 2009, Gokey performed a duet with r&b superstar Lionel Richie. The performance opened with Gokey singing a true-to-the-original solo of Richie's "Hello," which season 7 winner David Cook also covered during his season as a rock power ballad, and then Richie joined Gokey for a duet of his hits "Just Go" and "All Night Long".

Performances/Results[edit | edit source]

Week # Song choice Result
Audition "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" Advanced
Hollywood "Kiss from a Rose" Advanced
Hollywood "Somebody to Love" Advanced
Hollywood "I Hope You Dance" Advanced
Top 36/Semi-Final 1 "Hero" Advanced
Top 13 "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" Safe
Top 11 "Jesus, Take the Wheel" Safe
Top 10 "Get Ready" Safe
Top 9 "What Hurts the Most" Safe
Top 8 "Stand by Me" Safe
Top 7 "Endless Love" - Endless Love Film Safe
Top 71 "September" Safe
Top 5 "Come Rain Or Come Shine" Top 2
Top 4 "Dream On"
"Renegade" with Kris Allen
Top 3 "Dance Little Sister" (Paula Abdul's Choice)
"You Are So Beautiful" (Danny's Choice)

  • Note 1: Due to the judges using their one save to save Matt Giraud, the Top 7 remained intact for another week.

After American Idol[edit | edit source]

Gokey planned to start recording an R&B album over the summer, and continue doing work on his foundation, Sophia's Heart, which was set up to help disadvantaged children. He opted instead to do country music, signing a deal with RCA Nashville on September 1, 2009. His first single My Best Days Are Ahead of Me was released to country radio on November 19, 2009. His debut album My Best Days was released on March 2, 2010. The album's first-week sales of 65,000 copies made it the best debut for a male solo country artist since 1992 when Billy Ray Cyrus' debut album Some Gave All debuted with 90,000 copies sold in its first week. Gokey also went on tour as the opening act for the popular country music duo Sugarland. He was also nominated for an American Country Award for Best New/Breakthrough Artist. He has also released his version of the Amy Grant song "Tennessee Christmas" just in time for the holiday season.

As of December 29, 2010, My Best Days has sold 201,000 copies to date.

New single and touring[edit | edit source]

Gokey was at work on his second album, due for release for sometime in 2011, but it never got done. The first single off that upcoming second album, entitled "Second Hand Heart", was released on iTunes and other digital retailers on July 4, 2011. The song was released on country radio on August 8, 2011. As July 15, 2011, the song has sold 8,000 copies.

Gokey was also one of the opening acts on country superstar Taylor Swift's Speak Now World Tour in 2011.

Leaving RCA Nashville[edit | edit source]

Gokey left RCA Nashville in November 2011 but is still signed to 19 Recordings. He independently released an EP, Love Again, in May 2012 through his offical website.

First book and Hope in Front of Me[edit | edit source]

On October 1, 2013, Gokey released his first book, Hope in Front of Me: Find Purpose in Your Darkest Moments. In addition to his book, his second album, Hope in Front of Me, was released on June 24, 2014 via BMG Records. He posted a preview video of his new single, "Hope in Front of Me", on his YouTube channel on January 6, 2014. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Christian Album chart and number 1 on the Christian and Gospel Album chart.

Discography[edit | edit source]


  • Love Again (2012)


  • My Best Days (2010)
  • Hope in Front of Me (2014)


  • "Second Hand Heart" (2011) (non-album single)
Season 8
Kris Allen · Adam Lambert · Danny Gokey  · Allison Iraheta · Matt Giraud · Anoop Desai · Lil Rounds · Scott MacIntyre · Megan Joy · Michael Sarver · Alexis Grace · Jorge Nunez · Jasmine Murray
Ricky Braddy · Tatiana Del Toro · Jesse Langseth · Von Smith · Arianna Afsar · Felicia Barton · Kendall Beard · Ju'Not Joyner · Nathaniel Marshall · Kristen McNamara · Taylor Vaifanua · Alex Wagner-Trugman · Matt Breitzke · Mishavonna Henson · Kai Kalama · Nick Mitchell · Jeanine Vailes · Ann Marie Boskovich · Casey Carlson · Stephen Fowler · Brent Keith · Jackie Tohn · Stevie Wright
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.