Born on April 2, 1986 in Mount Prospect, Illinois to Kathleen and Leon James DeWyze Sr., Leon (Lee) James DeWyze Jr., is the American Idol season 9 winner. He has two sisters, Shannon and Sarah, and a younger brother, Michael. You may see a photo of Lee and Michael, who is wearing the dark blue, plaid shirt here. His mother, Kathy DeWyze, works as a radiology transcriber at the Arlington Heights Northwest Community Hospital, while Lee DeWyze Sr. is a postal carrier in Elk Grove Village. Lee DeWyze spent his childhood and teen years in the town where he was born and attended Saint James Catholic Elementary School and Prospect High School. Known as rambunctious and at times rebellious, DeWyze encountered difficulty during his high school years and was expelled from Prospect. He then enrolled at Forest View Alternative School, also in Arlington Heights, but failed to graduate. Instead, Lee DeWyze had taught himself to play guitar and piano, earned a GED, and began working as a paint sales clerk. He continued his job at Mount Prospect Paint until his audition for American Idol on June 22, 2009 at the United Center. Though the audition launched Lee DeWyze’s career and made him a household name, it was not the Illinois native’s first encounter with the music scene.
In 2003, when Lee DeWyze was 17-years-old, Louis Svitek of WuLi Records discovered him. Lee DeWyze then formed a band with both Svitek and his partner and co-founder of WuLi Records Ryan McGuire. Jeff Henderson also joined the group and recorded two albums on the WuLi Records label: So I’m Told (2007) and Slumberland (2010). While still with WuLi Records, Lee DeWyze recorded a promotional CD for Jeff Henderson’s wife Denise, who owns the baby food company, Square One Organics. The CD remains available through the official website and on iTunes. Music was not the only way Lee DeWyze planned to leave his mark on the world. In 2006, Lee DeWyze appeared in the independent film Deadscapes: Broken Road as the character Greg.
Even as a local Illinois band, Lee DeWyze was making waves and being noticed. Before catching Simon Cowell’s eye, the Lee DeWyze Band appeared on the local Illinois show The Chicago Huddle. After Lee DeWyze became the American Idol season 9 winner, Louis Svitek spoke to Radio Live NZ about working with Lee and the third album that they had recorded, yet not released, indicating their associations were ongoing.
Lee DeWyze was one of 13 Illinois contestants to make it to Hollywood week and one of three who made the top five. The other two from the Illinois competitions were Aaron Kelley and Crystal Bowersox.
Throughout Lee DeWyze’s time on American Idol, competition was heavy between him and Crystal Bowersox. Lee performed a number of songs throughout the season, leading up to the main event when he and Crystal Bowersox learned they would be the last two competing contestants. Both spoke with USA Today before the final vote was in and shared why they thought viewers should pick them for the American Idol season 9 winner.
Here are the songs that Lee DeWyze performed on American Idol, keep in mind that throughout Lee DeWyze’s time on American Idol, neither he nor Crystal Bowersox were ever in the bottom three.
Lee auditioned with the Bill Withers song “Ain't no Sunshine.” He performed three songs during Hollywood week. These include his first and second solo and the group performance. His first solo was “One of Us” by Joan Osborne. His second Solo was “You Found Me” by The Fray. For the group performance, Lee sang “Get Ready” by The Temptations.
During the top 24 show, Lee DeWyze sang “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. For his top 20 performance, he sang “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder. He sang “Fireflies” by Owl City during the top 16 performance. During the top 12 performance, Lee DeWyze sang “Beast of Burden” by The Rolling Stones. He followed with the top 11 performance of “The Letter” by The Box Tops. Lee DeWyze chose “Treat Her Like a Lady” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose for R&B/Soul week. The top nine week was deemed Lennon and McCartney and Lee DeWyze performed “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. After that performance, the judges chose to use their save, prompting the following week to have nine finalists. During that top nine performance, the contestants with the two lowest scores were sent home. The week was Elvis Presley and Lee DeWyze chose to sing “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley. Lee DeWyze made it to the top seven.
The theme for the top seven was inspirational songs, Lee DeWyze performed the classic Simon, and Garfunkel hit “The Boxer.” Lee DeWyze made it to the top six, which featured songs by Shania Twain. He performed “You’re Still the One.” The theme for the top five was Frank Sinatra and Lee DeWyze performed “That’s Life.” The next week saw the top four contestants compete and it also featured duets. The theme was songs of the cinema and Lee DeWyze performed a solo “Kiss from a Rose” which was originally performed by Seal for the film “Batman Forever.” Following the performance, Lee DeWyze and competitor Crystal Bowersox paired up for the duet “Falling Slowly” which was originally performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The song was a hit with fans and media and went viral on the Internet. The race to the finale was on the way and the next week would determine the final three.
On May 14, 2010, Lee DeWyze returned to his home in Illinois where he would hold what is known as the American Idol Homecoming. He performed at the Arlington Park Race Track to more than 40,000 fans and was featured in a parade through Mount Prospect, his birth town. He even threw the opening pitch for the Chicago Cubs.
The top three finalists were Casey James, Crystal Bowersox, and Lee DeWyze. The contestants performed two songs, one was the contestant’s choice, and the other was the judges’ choice. The contestants requested that Lee DeWyze sing “Simple Man” by Lynard Skynard. Simon Cowell chose one of the most popular songs performed by Lee DeWyze during his entire time on American Idol: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. The song was a phenomenal success for Lee DeWyze and immediately, fans went into overdrive promoting Lee and calling for viewers to vote for him as the next winner.
Casey James was voted off the show and Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox were the last two remaining. Though competition between the two was intense, it did not affect Lee and Crystal’s relationship as friends.
The contestants picked another song for Lee to sing and this time, they returned to the Simon and Garfunkel hit “The Boxer.” Simon Fuller selected “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. and Lee DeWyze was named the winner. The coronation song was “Beautiful Day” by U2. The show also featured another memorable event that coincides with Lee DeWyze’s win: the departure of Simon Cowell as judge.
Lee DeWyze has remained active post American Idol. His official MySpace account features songs recorded on the indie label WuLi as well as songs from when he signed with RCA. Lee also posts updates on his recording career at his official website.
Following Lee DeWyze’s win, his U2 cover “Beautiful Day” was released on iTunes as a digital single. The song has received more than 3,000 ratings and has earned an average of four stars. RCA quickly signed Lee through their 19 Entertainment label, but the relationship would not be permanent. RCA is a division of Sony. In October 2011, it was announced that after internal restructuring, RCA would drop Lee DeWyze from the label, though 19 Entertainment continues to manage him. RCA had an exclusive contract with American Idol and has signed numerous Idol singers. The deal between RCA and American Idol ended after a nine-year run.
On May 26, 2010, Lee DeWyze won American Idol. Just several weeks later, on June 6, 2010, he sang the National Anthem for the NBA Finals. Lee DeWyze also led the American Idol LIVE! Tour as he was the season winner. He performed songs such as “Beautiful Day” and “Hallelujah.” There is no doubt that 2010 was a good year for Lee DeWyze as he also won the 2010 Teen Choice Award for the Male Reality of Variety Star.
On September 24, 2010, Lee DeWyze went back to the Arlington Park Race Track, where he had performed the American Idol Homecoming and gave a concert for local fans. More than 20,000 came out to see the bluesy, soulful artist who worked as a paint salesperson before becoming the American Idol season 9 winner.
Though Lee DeWyze’s association with RCA would be short lived, he did release one album with the label. Live it Up was released on November 16, 2010 in both Compact Disc and digital download formats. It marks Lee DeWyze’s third album as he has two releases from his time with WuLi records. Toby Gad, John Shanks, Espionage, David Glass, Chris DeStefano, and David Hodges produced the album. The album consists of eleven songs, ten of which DeWyze co-wrote. Those who ordered through iTunes preorder received a bonus, twelfth track “Say It All Over Again,” while those who ordered the American Idol Deluxe Version through their store received the bonus track “Only Dreaming.” The eleven songs on the album include “Live it Up,” “Sweet Serendipity,” “It’s Gotta Be love,” “Dear Isabelle,” “Beautiful Like You,” “Stay Here,” “Me and My Jealousy,” Brooklyn Bridge,” “Weightless,” “Earth Stood Still,” and “A Song About Love.” Lee DeWyze co-wrote all of the songs except for the track “Beautiful Like You,” and the iTunes bonus song “Say It All Over Again.”
It was expected that “Live It Up” would be the album’s first release but it was later decided that “Sweet Serendipity” would be the first to hit airwaves. On October 25, 2010, “Sweet Serendipity” debuted on the radio program “On Air with Ryan Seacrest.” “Sweet Serendipity” was followed with the release of “Beautiful Like You.” Within one year, “Live It Up” had sold approximately 141,000 copies. In an interview with “Beatweek” magazine, Lee DeWyze stated he was not concerned with record sales and would stand by the album regardless of how it performed.
Following the release of “Live It Up,” Lee DeWyze toured through various parts of the world and the United States. DeWyze spent ten days touring South East Asia and China. His tour began on May 7, 2011 and concluded on May 17, 2011 and included performances in Manila, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bali. He followed the Asian tour with one in the United States.
Lee DeWyze’s U.S. based tour included nineteen states and kicked off on June 19, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio and concluded on July 22, 2011 in Detroit Michigan. DeWyze headlined while Corey Crowder opened for him. He played the following gigs, “The Basement” in Columbus, Ohio; “Old Rock House” in St. Louis, Missouri, “Varsity” in Minneapolis, Minnesota; “Union Terrace, University of Wisconsin” in Madison, Wisconsin; “Turner Hall Ballroom” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “Davis Park” in Rockford, Illinois; “Musica” in Akron, Ohio; “Altar Bar” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; “Gramercy Theatre” in New York, New York; “Alive at Five” in Stanford, Connecticut; “Brighton Music Hall” in Boston, Massachusetts; “Sig Flags Fiesta Texas” in San Antonio, Texas; “Brewster Street Ice House” in Corpus Christi, Texas; “Six Flags Over Texas” in Arlington, Texas; “Antone’s” in Austin, Texas; “House of Blues- Bronze Peacock Room” in Houston, Texas; “Six Flags Great America” in Gurnee, Illinois; “Simons Estes Amphitheatre” in Des Moines, Iowa; and “Campus Martius Part” in Detroit, Michigan.
On July 27, 2011, People Magazine announced that Lee DeWyze was engaged to model and actress Jonna Walsh. The couple plans to marry in the fall of 2012. The couple met while filming Lee DeWyze’s video for “Sweet Serendipity.” You may stay up to date with Lee DeWyze through his official Twitter account.