|April 24, 1982|
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Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24, 1982 in Fort Worth, TX. The youngest child of former engineer Stephen Michael Clarkson and English teacher Jeanne Rose, Clarkson grew up in the small Texas town of Burleson, where she attended Burleson High School. After her parents divorced, Clarkson sought refuge through music. She performed in various high school productions such as "Annie Get Your Gun" (1950) and "Brigadoon" (1954), which helped the future star earn full scholarship offers from various Texas universities. However, Clarkson decided against attending college to pursue a career in songwriting. She supported herself financially by working odd jobs. In fact, Clarkson was working as a waitress when she auditioned in Dallas for the first season of "American Idol," a Fox reality competition show that sought to discover the nation's most talented singer, to be voted on by the viewing public.
After a grueling audition process, Clarkson landed in the "American Idol" semi-finals round, along with 29 other aspiring singers, where they performed in front of celebrity judges Paula Abdul and a then unknown Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. Her performance of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" (1967) helped Clarkson advance to the Top 10, which pitted her against smooth crooner Justin Guarini, soulful belter Tamyra Gray, and rocker Ryan Starr, among others. Clarkson wowed the judges with her vocal range and versatility, with show stopping performances, including Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (1967), Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By" (1964), and Badfinger's rock ballad "Without You" (1970). On Sept. 4, 2002, Clarkson beat out Guarini to become the very first winner of "Idol." Her winnings included a contract with RCA Records, which released her first single (and coronation song), "A Moment Like This" (2002). The track was also included on Clarkson's debut album, Thankful, released in 2003. The LP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and was certified double platinum, thanks to the hit single "Miss Independent" and the ballad "The Trouble with Love Is." The latter was even featured as the theme song of the British romantic comedy, "Love Actually" (2003).
The millions of viewers who tuned in to "American Idol" wanted more after the first season wrapped. The show's creators found an opportunity to extend the audience's fascination with finalists Clarkson and Guarini by casting them in the 2003 musical comedy, "From Justin to Kelly." Set in Florida, Clarkson and Guarini played college-age singles who fall in love during a Spring Break trip with their respective friends. The film bombed at the box office and received poor critical reviews, mostly because of the stars' lack of acting experience. "From Justin to Kelly" was considered one of the worst films ever made and won the 2005 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Musical of Our First 25 Years. Clarkson later stated that she was aware of how bad the script was when she first read it, but that she was contractually obligated through "Idol" to star in the much-maligned film. Her short acting résumé included guest appearances on the television series "Reba" (The WB, 2001-06; The CW, 2006-07) and "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05), in which she portrayed singer Brenda Lee on the latter.
Hoping to distance herself from "Idol" and establish her own image, Clarkson took more creative control on her sophomore album, Breakaway (2004). The album, which showcased Clarkson's commanding rock vocals, spawned a string of Top 10 hits - from the inspirational "Breakaway" (co-written by punk pop singer Avril Lavigne), the soaring ballad "Because of You," and the dance track "Walk Away." The album's standout single, however, was the kiss-off anthem "Since U Been Gone." The song became an instant pop classic, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won a Grammy Award in 2006 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Years after its release, "Since U Been Gone" was widely considered Clarkson's signature song, and even made Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
Clarkson's third album, My December (2007), made up of darker, more personalized material, failed to live up to the success of Breakaway. Leading up to the album's release, the singer engaged in a public feud with then RCA-head Clive Davis. Clarkson wanted more say in production and marketing of My December while Davis did not want the singer to have that much control. Their dispute resulted in Clarkson changing management teams and canceling her first nationwide arena tour. My December was a disappointment in the charts and yielded only one minor hit, "Never Again." That same year, Clarkson returned to the "American Idol" stage and performed Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)" (2007) for the "Idol Gives Back" charity concert. After taking a few years off from recording new material, Clarkson released her fourth album All I Ever Wanted in 2009. Listeners and critics regarded it as the singer's return to her pop roots and reminiscent of her Breakaway years. Clarkson's long-awaited comeback album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and featured the up-tempo hit single "My Life Would Suck Without You." The following year, All I Ever Wanted earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, proving that Clarkson was no fluke when it came to legitimate, post-"Idol" success.