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"Idol"s grieving Danny Gokey hopes to lighten up

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Grieving “American Idol” contestant Danny Gokey, who recently lost his wife, said on Thursday he hoped to lighten up after being one of the first three singers to make it to the coveted Top 12 of the TV talent show.

Gokey, 28, a bespectacled church music director whose story has won widespread sympathy and attention, also apologized to viewers who felt he might have won an unfair advantage in the early stages of the show.

“I do feel like I was highlighted (by ‘Idol’ producers). I didn’t do anything to get that...I have no control over it. It’s a bummer when people are mad about it and I hope people can see past that,” Gokey told reporters on a telephone conference call.

Gokey said only seven months had passed since his wife died and that his grief was part of his life.

“This is a sob story. I don’t want it but it is shaping my life and it is causing hope for a lot of people...There is a fun side of me that’s going to come out. I apologize to everybody if they feel like it’s shoved in their faces, but it’s me,” he said.

Gokey, Texas oil worker Michael Sarver, and 21-year-old mom Alexis Grace advanced to the Top 12 on Wednesday night after viewers got their first chance to vote on the pool of contestants emerging from auditions in front of the four judges. Nine others were booted off the show.

Gokey is one of a handful of contestants who has been highlighted by “Idol” producers since they first auditioned last summer.

Sarver, 27, who has two young children and has been profiled as a hard working American, said the exposure had helped him win crucial early support with viewers.

“I acknowledge that the hard working American is part of the appeal. I believe real life Americans can relate to me... It’s not that my life is bad, but it is tough,” Sarver told reporters.

“American Idol”, the America’s most watched TV show with more than 24 million viewers per episode, reaches its climax in May 2009 when the 8th winning singer will be chosen.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant