Former American Idol contestant Elliott Yamin's brand of neo-soul is so laid back and relaxed that it's hard to reconcile with the myriad hardships the singer had to overcome. Yamin was born in L.A. but spent the bulk of his childhood in Richmond, Va. Repeated ear infections rendered Yamin's right ear 90 percent deaf by age 13. He was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic just three years later. While struggling with his health, Yamin's parents split. He then dropped out of high school (though he eventually earned his GED) and divided his time between jobs at Foot Locker and a local pharmacy. Going nowhere fast, the teenager eventually discovered his life's salvation: the vintage soul music of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Al Green. After honing his skills at local karaoke nights around Richmond, Yamin quit his jobs in 2006 to audition for America Idol. Though he came in third place in the show's fifth season, he was a favorite among fans and critics alike. Post-Idol, Yamin has released a slew of well-crafted albums that have netted him a faithful fan base that adores his smooth croon, subtle skills and taste in romantic balladry.