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Soul singer Steve Brookstein earned a record six million votes, winning 2004's inaugural series of The X-Factor, and scoring a number one album and single with his debut releases. Born in South London in 1968, Brookstein's musical ambitions surfaced at the age of 20, after a performance at a local karaoke bar inspired him to pursue a career in the industry. He became a regular fixture at various clubs, singing cover versions of songs by Luther Vandross, Al Green, and George Benson, and in 1996, he signed to MCA Records. His first single, a reworking of Teddy Pendergrass' "Only You," failed to find a release date when MCA closed, as did the material he penned for other artists during a publishing deal with EMI in New York. Following these setbacks, Brookstein moved back to London, but after being asked to support Dionne Warwick on her U.K. tour, he auditioned for the first series of Simon Cowell's The X-Factor in 2004. His performances helped him reach the final, where he was crowned the show's first winner. Brookstein signed a deal with Sony BMG, and reached number one with his first single, a cover version of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds," and with his following full-length album, Heart & Soul. Eight months later, he was dropped by his label after a fallout with former mentor Cowell over creative and personal differences. In 2006, he independently released his second album, 40,000 Things. He also produced wife Eileen Hunter's debut album, joined the cast of the Olivier Award-winning musical Our House, and recorded a track with German dance duo Boogie Pimps. During the 2010s, he performed at jazz clubs, small theaters, and private events. On the recording front, he cut his fan-funded third album, Forgotten Man, which was released in March 2014. ~ Jon O'Brien