While driving home with his family after church one day, a twelve-year-old Danny Gokey was doing what came natural, singing along with the music on the radio. That's when his dad looked over at his mom and uttered the almost prophetic words, “Your son can sing.”  Danny knew something shifted within him that day. But, he could never have imagined how it would all play out...

Danny's story is one of faith, love, tragedy, and a life redeemed by God's promises and His grace. He is the fifth of six children. His father worked in construction and his mother worked in the home as a professional babysitter. His first lessons of faith were from his family. Until he was twelve, Danny attended the church his grandfather pastored. Reflecting back on this part of his life, Danny says “This is where my faith began.” His mother read and prayed with him every night and his father, even after a long day at work, always made time for him and his brothers and sisters. 

At age five, Danny's dad gave him a small guitar. His dad liked to sing and would make songs out of most anything, like getting up, going to school and eating. It became common to see Danny with his miniature guitar onstage at church and, while his dad led worship, he would mimic his dad as he strummed his guitar. Danny's mom sang at church, too. He loved to listen to her and would try to sing like her - which is how he learned to harmonize.

Danny was sixteen, working at a sub shop, desperately wanting a girlfriend when he met Sophia Martinez at a church party. He was smitten. She prompted memories of the song “You Must Have Been An Angel” by Bob Carlisle. 

Sophia's parents had strict rules for dating and the first two years of their relationship were spent getting to know each other - over the phone. Once Sophia turned eighteen, they were able to go on chaperoned dates. After dating, on and off, the young couple knew they were meant for each other and they were married on May 15, 2004. They both worked a lot and then spent much of their spare time volunteering at church, together. After four years of marriage, life took a tragic turn. Born with a congenital heart defect, Sophia had begun to experience some health concerns in 2005. The prognosis was good. However, after complications from heart surgery in 2008, Sophia died. Danny was devastated.

Finding Strength from Within
Months earlier, largely due to Sophia's enthusiasm for the show, Sophia and Danny had decided he would try out for the 8th season of American Idol. Coupled with his faith in God, this decision became a beacon of hope for Danny after Sophia's death. Due to his age, the cutoff is twenty-eight years old, it was the last year he could try out and keep his promise to Sophia.

Danny reflects, “Sometimes we don't discover our purpose until the darkest moments strip us of everything and all we are left with is brokenness and heartache. It is in these moments, ironically, when hope becomes our strength and carries us until we can see again that hope is always in front of us.” Danny went on to win a spot on American Idol and his and Sophia's love story was shared with millions.

During American Idol, Danny also decided to create a foundation, Sophia's Heart, in honor of Sophia. “It is a foundation for children, which was my wife's passion. It's a foundation founded for families, because we believe in families." Danny elaborates, "My dream from the beginning of this experience was to mix my music with my foundation. Not only do I want to entertain people, but I want to bring hope to people. When I do a concert I want to deposit something inside of people. It's good that we can bring entertainment to people, but what if they still walk away from the concert hopeless? [or] What if they left saying, 'Just like he did - I can rise up out of my situation.'” 

Danny made it into the top three on American Idol. Over 25,000 people showed up for the homecoming event. Sixteen years had passed since his father first spoke the words “Your son can sing.” And, with every vote from the judges and the audience, that sentiment was echoed over and over again, millions of times. Country legend, Randy Travis, said this about Danny's time with American Idol: “When Danny was singing the pieces he knew, man there was a soulfulness that most of us who make a living as a singer wish that we had.”

Danny has opened for Sugarland, Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift. His debut album, My Best Days was released in 2010.  His sophomore album, Hope In Front Of Me (2014) includes the songs " Tell Your Heart To Beat Again" and " Hope In Front Of Me."

"I really wanted to just capture more of who I am with this record. More of the soul, and more of all of me as an artist. It's got a big sound to it, which I love." Danny says.

In his book Hope in Front of Me - Find Purpose in Your Darkest Moments (2013) Danny shares the story of how his destiny was born out of tragedy and how one thing, hope, made all the difference in his life. One day he met up with fellow musician Jeremy Camp who also experienced the loss of his first wife, Melissa. Melissa died from cancer in 2001. After that meeting, Danny says he noticed a glimmer of hope beginning to take up residence in his heart. The hope stemmed from the idea that, with God's help, he'd be able to create a positive destiny out of his experiences, good and bad, and then impact lives for the better because of it.

Sophia's Heart opened in 2011. It's located in Nashville in a former hospital that was donated to the non-profit. Three plus years later, Sophia's Heart is thriving and has helped rescue over 75 families from life on the street. Tuesdays are family nights at Sophia's Heart “If I am in town, this is where I am. We bring in a band, and a few singers and I perform uplifting music for the families. I find so much strength and inspiration from these gatherings where we celebrate our victories and share in our struggles,” Danny says.

Danny remarried on November 30, 2011 in a private ceremony. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Leyicat, their son Daniel and daughter Victoria. Danny also operates an inner-city music and arts program affiliated with Sophia's Heart.


Back to Danny Gokey Page