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Clay Aiken: Lessons Mom Taught Me

Clay Aiken's path to "American Idol" and the hit records and fame that followed was far from easy.

The singer writes about his often troubled childhood in his new book, "Learning to Sing," which he calls an inspirational memoir.

He writes of his working-class North Carolina upbringing, his abusive, alcoholic birth father and his fascinating, strong-willed mother, long a source of comfort and inspiration.

He says he wants readers to understand that "the greatest glory never comes from winning, but from rising each time you fall. A person is defined by what he chooses to do with his life, not by what happens to him."

Before pursuing his singing career, Aiken wanted to become a teacher. He was a special education major at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and worked for the YMCA in Raleigh, N.C.

But now well into his successful singing career, Aiken says he wants "to try to be able to share a little bit about some of the stuff I've learned."

"I've had the opportunity to write a biography," he told The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, "but I really didn't want to do that because I don't think I've lived long enough yet. But (writing this book at this time) was a chance to tell stories about people who I knew and experiences I had growing up, and what I believe kind of shaped me into who I am today.

"So it was kind of a chance to share some stories that I think other people would be able to relate to. I got picked on when I was in middle school and had a strained relationship with my biological father and not the sunniest one with my stepfather, and I think some people have that same type of situation.

"My mom always told me to learn from everything you do; otherwise it's not worth going through it. So, if I had not done that, then it would not be worth it. So I think, maybe if I can share what I learned, then maybe somebody going through the exact same thing can learn from it was well."

Syler notes that Aiken tells in the book how his mother believed in him from the beginning, and kept telling him his voice would take him places.

"She believed in me more than I did," Aiken confirmed. "And she wanted this for me, and she saw this happening long before I even thought it could be possible or even before I wanted it to be possible.

"And so, you know, she's always -- all of these lessons that we talk about in the book. And I introduced her very early on … because she's the thread that runs through everything. At the end, it's kind of like that thing you don't want to admit: that what mom said was right all along."

Aiken adds that doing the book "was really an eye-opening experience, and very therapeutic, almost like a psychologist's session. …As I was telling Allison Glock, who wrote it with me, as we started working through each thing, as we get to the end of it, to the lesson, I feel like that's something mom already said anyway. So when we got to the end of the book, we decided to do a chapter that wrapped it all up and said this is all that mom had told me all along."

His mother and younger brother, Aiken noted, are coming out to the home he just bought in California for Thanksgiving.


Aiken was one of the two finalists in the 2003 "American Idol" season, and is undoubtedly the biggest star to emerge from that hit show. Aiken's debut album, "Measure of a Man," hit number one on the Billboard 200 in October 2003, selling 612,000 copies during its first week. Aiken's single, "This is the Night/Bridge Over Troubled Water" won the 2003 Billboard Music Award for Bestselling Single. He was honored as the Fan's Choice winner at the 2003 American Music Awards. Also that year, People Magazine named the North Carolina crooner one of its Top Entertainers of the Year and one of its Sexiest Men Alive, and he became TV Guide's Fans' Favorite Reality Star.
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