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Rising Star: Lee DeWyze on Winning ‘American Idol’

Wed June 02 2010 1:52 pm
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The winner of ‘American Idol’ season 9 reflects on his victory and what it means for his musical career. Before winning: ‘No matter what happens, I’m still going to pursue a career in music.

Leon James “Lee” DeWyze, Jr. (born April 2, 1986) is American singer-songwriter from Mount Prospect, Illinois, and the winner of the ninth season of American Idol. After his win, he signed a record deal with 19 Entertainment and RCA Records. In addition to singing, Lee Dewyze is a musician who plays the guitar, piano and drums.

Prior to American Idol, DeWyze had a solo career and had formed the Lee DeWyze Band. He had released two independent albums called So I’m Told in 2007 and Slumberland in 2010, both on WuLi Records.

DeWyze was born in Mount Prospect, Illinois. His father, Lee DeWyze, Sr., worked as a postal carrier in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and his mother, Kathleen DeWyze (née Donahue), in radiology transcription at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. He Lee two older sisters, Sarah and Shannon, and a younger brother, Mike.

Video shows the motorcade arriving at St. James School where Lee DeWyze graduated from grade school. Some still shots also included from inside the school and his exit. Also some video of Lee’s brother Michael Lee DeWyze — saying hello.

DeWyze attended Saint James Catholic Elementary School in Arlington Heights, Illinois and Prospect High School up until his senior year. After leaving Prospect High, Lee attended Forest View Alternative School in Arlington Heights, having been inspired both by his teachers and his interest in music to return to his studies. Lee never graduated from either high school.

His musical influences include Cat Stevens, Eric Clapton, Ben Harper, and Simon & Garfunkel. He has some of the lyrics to “Father and Son”, a Cat Stevens classic song tattooed on his arm. He has 3 other tattoos, including a silhouette of the Chicago flag on his right arm. Lee stated on his blog that he owns a bulldog named Capone, is afraid of heights, loves playing Scrabble, and called his family before every performance he did on American Idol.

DeWyze auditioned in Chicago at the United Center for the ninth season of American Idol on June 22, 2009 after encouragement from his friend Vincent Ferrara who was also trying out for the contest in Chicago. He auditioned with the song “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Lee was one of only 13 people from Chicago, the lowest number out of all 7 audition cities, to make it through to Hollywood week. During Hollywood week his group included Aaron Kelly and Crystal Bowersox, all of whom made the Top 24 and subsequently the Top 5.

His closest friend among the competitors was Andrew Garcia. They were roommates throughout the season until Garcia was eliminated in the Top 9. Other contestants he is close to are Siobhan Magnus, Alex Lambert, Lacey Brown and eventual runner-up Crystal Bowersox.

DeWyze was one of two finalists on the show and was the only male contestant in Season 9 to never land in the bottom three. The judges praised Lee for shedding his shy persona throughout the season and showing, with confidence, that he was “in it to win it.”

Mount Prospect parade scene where Lee DeWyze arrived at the paint store he once worked at as a paint salesman.

On May 14, 2010, DeWyze performed at the Arlington Park Race Track in Arlington Heights, Illinois with more than 41,000 people attending as part of his American Idol Homecoming day. He also toured his hometown and Arlington Heights via police motorcade, where he visited former schools and his former paint store employer at the end of short parade viewed by thousands of people.

On May 26, DeWyze was crowned the winner of American Idol Season 9. As a result of winning the season, DeWyze also won a recording contract. According to the iTunes Store, his debut album is expected to be released on October 26, 2010, containing twelve tracks.


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