BY LISA WARREN
A Greeneville resident has sung his way into the hearts of "The X-Factor" judges and fans.
During Thursday's episode, the talent-search show featured Freddie Combs, a 540-pound, wheelchair-bound minister from Greeneville.
The 40-year-old singer was wheeled onstage at the show's Greensboro, N.C., auditions by his wife, Kay. Once on stage, he launched into an emotional performance of "Wind Beneath My Wings."
In January 2011, Combs and his wife were featured in an episode of The Learning Channel's show, entitled "Tons of Love," a program that explored the daily lives of morbidly obese couples.
The couple had lost a combined weight of 1,068 pounds. They have been married for 16 years.
During the show, Combs said that he nearly died in 2009 when he weighed 920 pounds - but that he has since lost nearly 400 pounds through diet and exericse.
"When you almost die, your life changes, and you look at living in a whole different manner," Combs said prior to his performance.
"I'm going to do my best, and if my best don't get it done, I'm going to move on," Combs added.
His powerful performance of "The Wind Beneath My Wings" earned him approval from each of the four celebrity judges:
* L.A. Reid called his voice "heavenly."
* Britney Spears said, "I find your voice shockingly amazing!"
* Demi Lovato told Combs, "You have a really, strong beautiful voice."
* Simon Cowell challenged him to get healthy enough to sing standing up next time instead of in his wheelchair -- but not before Cowell made a deal with the singer to become healthier as he progresses through the competition.
"When I heard you sing, I had a vision in my mind of you standing, singing that song, healthy, happy, and maybe you need some inspiration to help you to the next stage," Cowell told Combs.
"It's within you to sort this out, and I don't think you deserve to be stuck in this chair. I'll back you if you back yourself," Cowell added.
With that, Cowell gave Combs a "Yes" to move him on to the next level in the competition.
"Receiving four Yes's is more than than just a stamp for my talent. It's a yes to my future. It's a yes to my health. And it's a yes to every other person who is down and most likely feels like their life is over and will never be any better."
A video of Combs' performance can be viewed online on The X-Factor's website at http://www.thexfactor.com