How James Durbin Overcame Tourette’s and Asperger’s to Steal the Show on American Idol
James Durbin has a pitch-perfect voice and a hard rocker’s attitude. Pre-Idol footage shows him absolutely killing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love;” another clip has him crooning his way through the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with equal power. His versatile voice has already earned him comparison to Idol fave Adam Lambert.
But behind this incredible talent is one of the most emotional back stories in AI history. James’ mother raised raised both him and his sisters by herself while his musician father was away touring. James reveals that he was never able to spend much time with his dad. Even more tragic, his father later died of a drug overdose when James was just 9 years old. “People say that I get my musical talent from my dad. Well, I’ll never know,” James reveals on American Idol.
Shortly after his father’s death, James was diagnosed Tourette’s and Asperger’s syndrome. Both are extremely debilitating neurological disorders that can result in behavioral tics and extreme social awkwardness. James is classified as a "high-functioning" individual, meaning that his symptoms are milder. He's able to handle social situations with more tolerance than others with Tourette's or Asperger's. His facial and vocal tics should also become more manageable with time.
But James hasn’t let his condition slow him down as a performer. He’s gone on to star in productions of Singing in the Rain, Grease, Beauty and the Beast, West Side Story, Sweet Charity, Fiddler on the Roof, and My Fair Lady. He was also the lead singer for the band Hollywood Scars and jammed alongside a teen music ensemble known as Guitarmy. James tells the Santa Cruz Sentinel that he sees the stage as a form of therapy, a place that allows him to put aside his tics and obsessions.
James went on to meet his fiance Heidi at the bar and the two went on to have a son. The singer credits them for helping him turn his life around, but times are tough for the young family. As James tearfully admits, “We’re living in a place right now with the cheapest rent. I don’t have a job and we’re doing what we can to get by. There’s been times when we can’t even afford to get diapers.” Sorry, does anyone have a tissue we can borrow?
Between his touching story and amazing voice, James Durbin very well may be the last singer standing on American Idol.