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Duncan Sheik
Sheik in 2006
Sheik in 2006
Background information
Born (1969-11-18) November 18, 1969 (age 54)
Montclair, New Jersey, United States
OriginLos Angeles, California
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, composer, actor
Instrument(s)Guitar, piano, vocals, electronics
Years active1993–present

Duncan Sheik (born November 18, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. Sheik is known for his 1996 debut single "Barely Breathing", which earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. He has composed music for motion pictures and Broadway musicals, winning the 2007 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations for his work on the musical Spring Awakening.

Early life

Sheik is a native of Montclair, New Jersey. Following his parents' divorce, he split time between his father's house in New Jersey and his mother's home in South Carolina.[1] He is the half-brother of Broadway actress Kacie Sheik.[2] Sheik's Juilliard-trained grandmother introduced him to the piano, and he later took up the electric guitar. By age 12, he was playing guitar with high school students in a cover band.[3] After graduating from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1988,[4] Sheik studied semiotics at Brown University;[5] while at Brown, he played guitar in a band with fellow Brown student Lisa Loeb. Following his graduation from Brown in 1992, he moved to Los Angeles.[3]


Early in his musical career, Sheik played guitar for other artists, including Liz and Lisa (with Elizabeth Mitchell and Lisa Loeb). Sheik also played on His Boy Elroy's 1993 album through his connections from a fellow Brown alum, Tracee Ellis Ross.[6]


In 1996, Sheik released his self-titled debut album, which was certified gold.[7] The album featured the hit single "Barely Breathing", which peaked at number 16[8] and remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 55 consecutive weeks.[9] "Barely Breathing" also enjoyed Top 20 success on Adult Contemporary radio,[8] reached No. 2 on the Adult Top 40 charts,[8] and garnered Sheik a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.[10]

In 1998, Sheik recorded "Embraceable You" for Red Hot + Rhapsody, a George Gershwin tribute to increase AIDS awareness, and also recorded "Songbird" for another tribute, Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.[citation needed] Also in 1998, Sheik released Humming, an experimental follow-up with string arrangements.[citation needed]

Sheik sang a duet with singer Howard Jones on Jones' 2000 single entitled Someone You Need.[11]

Sheik released Phantom Moon, a Nick Drake-influenced album on which he collaborated with poet and writer Steven Sater, in 2001.[citation needed] The following year, Sheik released Daylight, a brighter, more modern-sounding album which included the singles, "On A High" and "Half-Life".[citation needed] After a four-year recording break, Sheik released White Limousine (2006), an album which included companion software on a DVD-ROM to remix individual tracks.[citation needed] In 2008, Sheik was a judge at the 7th annual Independent Music Awards.[citation needed]

In 2009 he released Whisper House, a concept album which provided the score for the musical of the same name.[12] The stage musical premiered at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in January 2010, after a workshop at Vassar College, produced by New York Stage and Film in 2009.[13][14]

In 2011, Sheik released Covers 80's, an album including covers of popular 1980s songs. Concert dates in support of the album were later canceled due to Sheik seeking treatment for alcohol addiction.[15] A remixed version of the album was released the following year.[16] Sheik released a new studio album entitled Legerdemain in October 2015.[17]


In addition to being a singer-songwriter, Sheik has also composed music for plays, musicals, and movie soundtracks. He composed original music for the 2002 New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night.[18]

In 2004, he composed the score for the film A Home at the End of the World. The AllMusic reviewer wrote: "...takes the sensitivity and tension of the film's plot and crafts incidental music and new songs that complement the movie well."[19] He composed the score for the 2005 film Through the Fire with Pete Miser.[20][21]

Sheik wrote the music for Spring Awakening (2006) in collaboration with Steven Sater. Written over a period of eight years, the musical, which premiered off-Broadway during the summer, opened on Broadway to critical acclaim later in the fall. The musical was based on the controversial German expressionist play The Awakening of Spring, written by Frank Wedekind. Sheik won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Orchestrations for his work on Spring Awakening,[22] and he and Sater won a Tony Award for Best Original Score.[23] In addition, Spring Awakening won the Tony Award for Best Musical[24] and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.[25] The guitar that Sheik used to compose songs for Spring Awakening was displayed at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.[26] As of 2012, Sheik was composing music for a feature-film adaptation of Spring Awakening, an adaptation almost a decade in the making.[27]

In 2012, Sheik wrote Alice By Heart, an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, along with collaborator Sater. Directed by Jessie Nelson with musical direction by Lance Horne, the musical was workshopped at the Royal National Theatre and commissioned by the National Theatre Connections.[28]

Sheik wrote the music and lyrics to the 2013 musical adaptation of American Psycho,[29] which opened at the Almeida Theatre in London, and was later staged on Broadway in 2016.[30]

In 2013, Sheik wrote the music for the musical adaptation of the novel Because of Winn-Dixie, which premiered at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.[31] Dixie was a collaboration with then-director John Tartaglia and Nell Benjamin, who wrote the book and lyrics.[31] The musical ran at the Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Connecticut from July 2019 to September 2019, directed by John Rando.[32]

In 2015, Sheik wrote the musical thriller Noir with Kyle Jarrow. It premiered as part of New York Stage and Film's season in July to August 2015 at the Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College. Inspired by live radio plays and classic film noir, the musical was directed by Rachel Chavkin.[33][34][35]

In 2016 he prepared the music for the Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.) production of The Taming of the Shrew, described in The Washington Post as "an assortment of preexisting songs by singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik".[36]

Other work

Sheik produced singer-songwriter Micah Green's 2000 debut album[37][better source needed] as well as his 2012 follow-up.[38][39][40][better source needed]

In 2000, Sheik wrote the foreword to The Way of Youth: Buddhist Common Sense for Handling Life's Questions, by Soka Gakkai International leader Daisaku Ikeda.[citation needed]

In 2006, Sheik recorded the song "A Purple Trail" for Other Songs and Dances, Vol. 1. In 2008, Sheik participated in Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace, an initiative to support Tibet, Dalai Lama, and Tenzin Gyatso.[41]

Personal life

Concert dates in support of Sheik's 2011 album Covers 80's were canceled when Sheik sought treatment for alcohol use disorder.[15] In a message to fans on his tumblr blog, Sheik noted that he had entered a treatment center on the same day his latest album was released and had told his staff, "My record is coming out and I’m checking in."[42]

Sheik has a daughter with his girlfriend, model Nora Ariffin.[43][44]

Sheik practices Nichiren Buddhism and is a member of the US branch of the worldwide Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International.[45]

Awards and nominations

Year Awards Work Category Result
1997 Billboard Music Awards Himself Top Adult Top 40 Artist Nominated
"Barely Breathing" Top Adult Top 40 Track Won
1998 Grammy Awards Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
1999 BMI Pop Awards Award-Winning Song Won
2007 Tony Awards Spring Awakening Best Original Score Won
Best Orchestrations Won
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Nominated
2008 Grammy Awards Best Musical Show Album Won
2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards American Psycho Outstanding New Score Nominated


Duncan Sheik discography
Studio albums9
Live albums1
Compilation albums2
Remix albums1


Studio albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
US Heat
1996 Duncan Sheik 83 1
1998 Humming
  • Release date: October 6, 1998
  • Label: Atlantic, Rhino
  • Formats: CD, cassette, digital download, streaming
2001 Phantom Moon
  • Release date: February 27, 2001
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • Formats: CD, cassette, digital download, streaming
2002 Daylight
  • Release date: August 22, 2002
  • Label: Atlantic, Rhino
  • Formats: CD, cassette, digital download, streaming
2006 White Limousine
  • Release date: January 26, 2006
  • Label: Zoë
  • Formats: CD+DVD, digital download, streaming
2009 Whisper House 181
2011 Covers 80s
  • Release date: June 7, 2011
  • Label: Sneaky
  • Formats: CD, digital download, streaming
2015 Legerdemain
  • Release date: October 9, 2015
  • Label: Sneaky
  • Formats: CD, digital download, streaming
2022 Claptrap
  • Release date: August 26, 2022
  • Label: AntiFragile
  • Formats: Digital download, streaming
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Live albums

Year Album details
2020 Live at the Cafe Carlyle (New York, NY / 2017)
  • Release date: December 4, 2020
  • Label: Sneaky, Missing Pieces
  • Formats: Digital download, streaming

Remix albums

Year Album details
2012 Covers 80s Remixed
  • Release date: November 6, 2012
  • Label: Sneaky
  • Formats: CD, digital download, streaming

Compilation albums

Year Album details
2006 Brighter/Later: A Duncan Sheik Anthology
  • Release date: October 23, 2006
  • Label: Rhino
  • Formats: 2xCD, digital download, streaming
2007 Greatest Hits - Brighter: A Duncan Sheik Collection
  • Release date: March 6, 2007
  • Label: Rhino
  • Formats: CD, digital download, streaming

Extended plays

Year Album details
2005 Rhino Hi-Five: Duncan Sheik
2011 Harvest (Music from the Motion Picture) (with David Poe)
  • Release date: May 3, 2011
  • Label: Harvest Film
  • Formats: Digital download, streaming


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Adult
US Dance
US Pop
1996 "Barely Breathing" 12 16 19 2 10 Duncan Sheik
1997 "She Runs Away" 24
"Reasons for Living" 3
"Wishful Thinking" 103 Great Expectations (soundtrack)
1998 "Bite Your Tongue" Humming
1999 "That Says It All"
2001 "A Mirror in the Heart" Phantom Moon
2002 "On a High" 21 1 Daylight
2005 "White Limousine" White Limousine
"The Dawn's Request"
2008 "We're Here to Tell You" Whisper House
2009 "Earthbound Starlight"
"Play Your Part"
2012 "Shout" Covers Eighties Remixed
2013 "Lay Down Your Weapons" Non-album single
2020 "Barely Breathing 2020 'Dear 45'"
2021 "Better Things For Better Living"
(with Simon Kafka)
2022 "Experience" Claptrap
"Something Happening Here"
"Chimera II"
(featuring Oora)
"There's No Telling"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Stage credits

Film and television credits

  • "View from the Other Side", Friends
  • "A Body Goes Down", Jeff Buckley: Goodbye and Hello
  • "Now or Never", Boys and Girls
  • "Mama Who Bore Me", 90210
  • "Barely Breathing", Glee
  • "Barely Breathing", Girls

See also


  1. ^ Rose, Lisa (March 8, 2010). "Duncan Sheik gets his Jersey on in South Orange".
  2. ^ Fox, Sandra Diamond (November 18, 2015). "Happy Birthday To Garrison's Duncan Shiek". Putnam Daily Voice.
  3. ^ a b Matsumoto, Jon (April 15, 1997). "Waiting to Exhale : 'Barely Breathing' Singer-Songwriter Duncan Sheik, Busy Touring, Can't Wait to Get Back in the Studio". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019.
  4. ^ Smith, Jenn (April 8, 2015). "Duncan Sheik to roll out new material at Drury show". The Berkshire Eagle.
  5. ^ Loveline, September 8, 1996.
  6. ^ Price, Betsy (May 5, 2015). "Duncan Sheik talks about composing for 'Winn-Dixie'". delawareonline.
  7. ^ "Gold & Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "Duncan Sheik Barely Breathing Chart History". Billboard.
  9. ^ Boskamp, Elsie (October 15, 2014). "Update: East End Favorites Expected To Rock Out During Inaugural Hamptons Music Festival – The Arts – Live Music View".
  10. ^ Iwasaki, Scott (February 1, 2008). "New awakening spurs 2nd Grammy bid for Sheik".
  11. ^ Iwasaki, Scott (July 7, 1999). "The people have their say: Hojo rocks".
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam (January 8, 2009). "Track List Announced for Sheik's 'Whisper House'; Concert Dates Added". Playbill. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  13. ^ Jones, Kenneth (May 3, 2009). "Old Globe Will Premiere Duncan Sheik's Whisper House and Bricusse's Sammy Davis Jr. Musical". Playbill.
  14. ^ a b Rothstein, Mervyn (January 20, 2010). "A Ghostly Awakening: Duncan Sheik's Whisper House". Playbill.
  15. ^ a b Miller, Michael H. (June 8, 2011). "Duncan Sheik Cancels Tour Dates to Deal with Alcohol-Related Addiction". Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  16. ^ Kevin Thomas (November 30, 2012). "Duncan, chic". Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  17. ^ Powers, Ann (October 16, 2014). "Hear Two Songs From Duncan Sheik's Next Album : The Record". NPR. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  18. ^ Finn, Robin (July 2, 2002). "PUBLIC LIVES; Decisions, Decisions. Name Recognition or Nirvana?". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Theakston, Rob. "A Home at the End of the World Original Soundtrack", retrieved July 24, 2019
  20. ^ Catsoulis, Jeanette. "Review. Through the Fire. The Golden Road to a Basketball Dream" The New York Times, February 10, 2006
  21. ^ Scheib, Ronnie (July 14, 2005). "Review. Through the Fire". Variety.
  22. ^ "Duncan Sheik In Concert". NPR. April 29, 2011.
  23. ^ McPhee, Ryan (October 18, 2018). "Spring Awakening Writers Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater at Work on Twelfth Night-Inspired Amazon Musical Series". Playbill.
  24. ^ Wallenberg, Christopher (December 10, 2018). "From the Archives: Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, and John Gallagher Jr. of Spring Awakening Reflect on 'Surreal' Success". Playbill.
  25. ^ Gans, Andrew (February 10, 2008). "Spring Awakening Wins 2008 Best Musical Show Album Grammy; Krieger and Dale Also Win". Playbill.
  26. ^ Anthony, Ellen. "Hidden Broadway Treasures Revealed". Broadway.TV. Archived from the original on September 23, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  27. ^ Cerasaro, Pat (November 16, 2012). "BWW EXCLUSIVE SCOOP: Duncan Sheik Teases SPRING AWAKENING Movie; Filming in Spring 2013 & New Cast?". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  28. ^ Hetrick, Adam (May 24, 2011). "EXCLUSIVE: Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik Workshopping New 'Alice' Musical at London's National Theatre". Playbill. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  29. ^ Cox, Gordon (February 2, 2010). "'American Psycho' musical takes shape". Variety. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  30. ^ Simonson, Robert (July 17, 2015). "In Case You Missed It: Duncan Sheik Is Having a Busy Season and Do Critics Have Faith in Amazing Grace?". Playbill. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  31. ^ a b Purcell, Carey (July 18, 2013). "Because of Winn Dixie, New Musical by Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin, Will Premiere in Arkansas; John Tartaglia Directs". Playbill. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  32. ^ Verini, Bob (July 22, 2019). "From Connecticut: Because of Winn Dixie is Not Arf Bad". New York Stage Review.
  33. ^ McPhee, Ryan (July 22, 2015). "Exclusive: Duncan Sheik on His New Show Noir, American Psycho Casting & Spring Awakening Film's Delay". Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  34. ^ "Noir". Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  35. ^ Viagas, Robert (July 6, 2015). "NAMT Flash: Busy Duncan Sheik Has Another New Musical in the Pipeline". Playbill.
  36. ^ a b Marks, Peter (May 25, 2016). "Shakespeare Theatre Company’s ‘Shrew’: An all-male muddle". Washington Post.
  37. ^ "The Top 100 Artists on ARTISTdirect – Pop, Rock & Hip Hop Music Styles – Free Music Download, Music Video, MP3 music and Music CD". Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  38. ^ "Duncan Sheik produced Micah Green's latest album I Know, I Know, I Know, due out Tuesday August 28th via MRI/Sneaky Records « Duncan Sheik Duncan Sheik – Official Website". August 28, 2012. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  39. ^ Farber, Jim (September 2, 2012). "The top 10 CD picks for the week of Sept. 2, 2012". New York Daily News.
  40. ^ "Micah Green Biography" Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  41. ^ Finn, Natalie (July 22, 2008). "Sting, Matthews, Mayer Gamer for Tibet Than Beijing". E! Online. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  42. ^ Peter Vidani. "Duncan Sheik News Archive (Message + Song From Duncan)". Archived from the original on January 7, 2016. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  43. ^ Wong, Curtis M. (November 19, 2020). "Duncan Sheik Looks Beyond 'Barely Breathing' To Deliver Moody Pop For Chaotic Times". HuffPost. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  44. ^ Cheong, Justin (February 3, 2016). "Singapore Supermodel Nora Ariffin Talks About Stripping And Surviving In The 80s". HerWorld. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  45. ^ "SGI-USA Arts Division Conference". Soka Gakkai International News. February 8, 2008. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013.
  46. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  47. ^ "allmusic ((( Duncan Sheik > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Allmusic. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  48. ^ "RIAA – Gold & Platinum – August 10, 2014: Duncan Sheik certified albums". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  49. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  50. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History – Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  51. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History – Adult Contemporary". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  52. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History – Adult Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  53. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History – Dance/Club Play Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  54. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History – Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  55. ^ a b Hetrick, Adam (November 15, 2007). "Sater and Sheik's The Nightingale Tries Its Wings in NYC with Chorus Line's Tam". Playbill.
  56. ^ Harvey, Dennis (February 26, 2006). "Review. Nero (Another Golden Rome). Variety.
  57. ^ Suskin, Steven (May 6, 2011). "Carson McCullers Talks About Love". Variety.
  58. ^ Hetrick, Adam (April 20, 2011). "Suzanne Vega Debuts Carson McCullers Talks About Love Off-Broadway April 20". Playbill.
  59. ^ Jones, Kenneth (February 2, 2010). "Duncan Sheik and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa Will Make American Psycho Sing". Playbill. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  60. ^ "The Taming of the Shrew". Shakespeare Theatre Company.