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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.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.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. In July 2008, four weeks before he auditioned for American Idol, his wife Sophia underwent routine surgery for congenital heart disease.The couple have two children, son Daniel Emanual(born on January 20, 2013) and daughter Victoria Isabella(born on November 28, 2014) .Gokey rose to national fame with his participation in the eighth season of American Idol.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.

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 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.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".

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