From the thrill of a lifetime to its untimely end, all in less than six months…
We are so sad to hear of the passing of Shonka Dukureh. You may not know the singer’s name, you may not have had time to learn it, but if you saw Elvis you’ll know who we’re talking about. The performer made her big Hollywood debut this year playing Big Mama Thornton alongside Austin Butler‘s acclaimed performance as The King. She even got to share the stage with Doja Cat at Coachella.
And her version of Hound Dog will live on forever on the biopic’s soundtrack.
Tragically, Shonka did not have much time to bask in the glory of her late-bloomer movie career. The Nashville Metropolitan Police Department confirmed to People that the gospel singer was found dead in her apartment on Thursday morning.
According to reports, one of her two young children found her unresponsive and ran to a neighbor’s, who called 911. A cause of death is still being determined, but no foul play is suspected.
Shonka was only 44 years old.
News of the Tennessee star’s passing made it all the way to Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who said in a statement via Fox17:
“My deepest condolences to the family of Shonka Dukureh. Shonka graduated from Fisk and called Nashville home for many years. Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day.”
Shonka was just getting started in show business. While she’d done a lot of local theater and sung in church choirs, this was her big break. Before that she’d worked as a teacher and community leader, as she told local outlet WPLN just last month:
“I taught second grade for a little while over at Buena Vista Elementary in Metro Schools, and then did a lot of work with inner city youth doing after-school programing, summer programing — those programs that we need during the break so that kids can have a positive place to be.”
Some of her students reached out after her big debut, not believing they were taught by a movie star. She demurred:
“They’re blown away, like, ‘Wow! Miss Shonka! Really?’ I said, ‘I’m still Ms. Shonka, you know!'”
The performer was so full of life and had so much talent left to show the world. It just doesn’t seem fair. She also spoke to ABC24 in Memphis about her newfound career earlier this month. See that now bittersweet interview (below):
[Image via Warner Bros/ABC24/YouTube.]