Ruben Studdard Digs Deep for Soulful Sam Cooke Classic

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

If anyone’s been asking whatever happened to Ruben Studdard, they probably haven’t been paying too much attention.

In the 13 years since he brightened the world of pop music with his American Idol-winning romantic balladry, Studdard has warmed the hearts of his huge fan base with five albums and has toured with the various artists like Peabo Bryson, Melissa Manchester, CeCe Winans and David Foster.

And he’s done a whole lot more, including the just completed and powerful new version of Sam Cooke’s classic, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Studdard, 38, said that he initially wanted to sing the song for a civil rights event in Birmingham, Ala.

“It was a big event and Dr. Henry Panion III was producing and conducting the orchestra and it turned into a PBS special during Black History Month,” Studdard said.

Studdard added that Panion, his mentor, asked if he’d sing and the former Idol champ didn’t hesitate.

“I’ve always been a fan of that song and the importance of the material inclined me to do it,” said Studdard.

Panion has been lauded for his work with a who’s who in music, including Stevie Wonder, Kirk Franklin, Chaka Khan, the Winans, Aretha Franklin, Tramaine Hawkins, and American Idol Winners Carrie Underwood and Studdard.

“Ruben really does shine and I think it’s a great joy working with him,” said Panion, whose works are programmed throughout the United States by many of the country’s major orchestras, including the Atlanta Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Cleveland Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, and the National Symphony.

Panion continued: “He really does love music. I work in classical and in jazz and pop, so many when they become popular it has little to do with their musicianship, but how many times can you turn on a national show and you wonder, where in the world did they find this person?”

Studdard has always been a student of music and there’s talk of him doing a Christmas Album of Luther Vandross songs, Panion added.

Studdard also continues to work on producing a children’s show called, “Uncle Ruben’s House,” that he hopes will debut in the fall.

“It’s a labor of love just having to learn the techniques and how to communicate with kids from two to eight; it’s really phenomenal,” Studdard said. “My mom is an educator, she was like a child whisperer and that market has been silent for years. So, we’ll make songs specifically to teach children manners, math, and science and the guy I’m working with is really big on STEM education and trying to incorporate that into our music to help children in different ways.”

Another album also should debut soon, Studdard said.

For now, however, he’s pushing the release of “A Change is Gonna Come,” which came on the heels of former President Barack Obama’s final days in office, when he designated Birmingham Civil Rights District as a national monument.

“Sam Cooke’s original became an anthem to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s,” Panion said. “We believe that Ruben’s new version is right on time. Everybody could use a little soul and inspiration.”

The single is currently available on iTunes and GooglePlay.

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