Usher Raymond IV is born to Usher Raymond III and Jonetta Patton. At 9, he begins singing in the choir at St. Elmo Missionary Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. Usher tells the Washington Post in 1998 that singing in the church was "like mental grooming in early ages...Like any other normal child, I had a lot of dreams."
With his mother, stepfather and younger brother, Usher, 12, relocates to Atlanta, Ga., where Jonetta hopes to get the aspiring singer more exposure. He enters TV's talent showcase Star Search, where he wins Best Teen Male Vocalist for his rendition of Boyz II Men's "End Of The Road." "I was a competitor for four months. I was doing good," Usher says. "No one could beat me." The following year, he meets producer L.A. Reid, who signs him to LaFace Records. "Usher represents the next generation of R&B soul," Reid tells Billboard.
Usher, 15, moves to New York to work with up-and-coming producer Sean ''Diddy'' Combs, who has a makeover in mind for his protégé. Usher's self-titled debut album sells 500,000 copies, but is heavily criticized for its sexual content. "It was the wrong direction," Usher tells PEOPLE. "That whole bad-boy thing, me frowning for the camera – that wasn't me."
Usher (pictured with costar Brandy) makes his acting debut with a recurring role on the singer-actress' hit UPN series Moesha. After playing Brandy's boyfriend, he nabs another role on the CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful. "I've found a new love," Usher tells PEOPLE. "My acting is making me want to leave my singing."
Usher releases his second disc, My Way, co-writing six of the nine tracks. It sells 8 million copies with such singles as "You Make Me Wanna..." "Nice & Slow" and "My Way". "The album is done my way in every aspect," Usher tells the Kansas City Star. "I did a lot more on this album because I'm older and have more of an opinion."
Usher makes his film debut in the Robert Rodriguez's sci-fi thriller The Faculty. "He has a natural style," Rodriguez tells PEOPLE. "I was impressed." The following year, he appears as a DJ (left) in the teen hit She's All That and stars with Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Williams in the hostage drama Light It Up.
Usher, 22, releases his third album, 8701. "The album is really about my evolution as an artist, as a writer, as a producer and as a man," Usher tells USA Today. "I learned how music works dealing with Jermaine Dupri, and I learned how image works dealing with Puff Daddy." It sells 8 million copies with hits like "U Remind Me," "U Got It Bad," and "U Don't Have to Call." Usher wins two Grammys: Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "U Remind Me" and the same award the following year for "U Don't Have to Call."
After shooting the music video for his single, "U Got It Bad," Usher begins dating former TLC member Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, more than seven years his senior. He tells PEOPLE that Chilli was his "dream girl," but a few weeks after their split in January 2004, she tells PEOPLE, Usher told her he had strayed during their relationship. "He portrayed himself as faithful, and he wasn't," she says. "I could never be with him ever again." Usher tells Jet, "It was something as a man I admitted to. As a man, I had to sit down and have a real-talk conversation with my woman and I talked to her."
Usher releases Confessions, which sells nearly 1.1 million copies in its first week before selling more than 15 million copies worldwide. On the strength of such hits as "Confessions," "Burn," and "Yeah!" Usher receives eight Grammy nominations, winning two awards for Best Contemporary R&B Album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Yeah!" "My feeling has always been that Confessions would be a landmark album for me," he tells Ebony. "I knew this album was going to be big. I couldn't wait for it to drop. I was like, 'I'm going to get ya'll this time.'"
Usher sings a duet, "My Boo", with Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys (right). They win a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Courtesy Usher; Splash News Online; amazon.com; Everett Collection; Kobal Collection/Wireimage; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Larry Busacca/WireImage