Soul singer Taylor Hicks has won the coveted title of American Idol 2006 in the hit US TV talent show.
The show is a huge ratings hit in the US
Hicks, 29, saw off competition from finalist Katharine McPhee, 22, in a contest which attracted more than 63 million votes.
He wins a recording contract and chance for national stardom. "I'm living the American dream," he said.
The fifth series of American Idol has proved hugely popular despite claims it is not as exciting as previous runs.
It has attracted an average weekly audience of more than 28 million viewers in the US.
Over several weeks, the field of aspiring singers was whittled down to two contrasting contestants, the soul-singing Hicks against the trained McPhee, who each performed three songs in a sing-off on Tuesday.
The two then waited to hear their verdict during a star-studded finale on Wednesday which saw previous contestants and celebrities such as Prince and Meatloaf perform.
Hicks, 29, is an exuberant dancer from Birmingham, Alabama. He was told by judge Simon Cowell at his first audition that he had no chance of success.
He is the oldest contestant to win the American Idol crown.
Runner-up McPhee is the first contestant from Los Angeles to shine on the programme. She is a trained singer backed by her vocal-coach mother and attended the prestigious Boston Conservatory for a semester.
Last year, country singer Carrie Underwood won the fourth series of the TV show. She went on to collect two awards at the Country Music Television Awards in April.
Auditions for the 2007 show start in cities across the US in July.