Music

Shonka Dukureh death: Elvis star found dead aged 44 by one of her children

Shonka Dukureh, who had a starring role in the recently released Baz Luhrmann biopic Elvis, has died at age 44.

The blues singer was found unresponsive by one of her children at their Nashville apartment on Thursday, according to local law enforcement.

Metro Nashville Police Department said there is no suspicion of foul play and a cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy.

Dukureh shared her apartment with her two kids and a neighbor, alerted by the child who found, called 911 at 9:27 am Thursday.

Shonka Dukureh, a mother of two who was found dead by one of her children in the apartment they shared, is pictured with two children

Shonka Dukureh, a mother of two who was found dead by one of her children in the apartment they shared, is pictured with two children

Gone too soon: Shonka Dukureh, who had a starring role as Big Mama Thornton in the recently released Baz Luhrmann biopic Elvis, died Thursday at age 44

Gone too soon: Shonka Dukureh, who had a starring role as Big Mama Thornton in the recently released Baz Luhrmann biopic Elvis, died Thursday at age 44

Playing Big Mama Thornton was the North Carolina native’s first big movie role.

She also played the character in the music video for Doja Cat’s Vegas from the movie’s soundtrack.

Doja, 26, – born Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini – took to Instagram to lead tributes to the talented actress on social media as she wrote: ‘Rest In Peace Shonka – an incredible talent taken from us too soon.

‘Was a true honor getting to know her and I am so grateful to her for lending her incredible vocals to “Vegas.” Her amazing performance in Elvis amongst her other artist will live on. Sending my deepest condolences to her loved ones.’

Sweet: Doja Cat, 26, - born Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini - took to Instagram to lead tributes to the talented actress as she wrote: 'Rest In Peace Shonka - an incredible talent taken from us too soon

Sweet: Doja Cat, 26, – born Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini – took to Instagram to lead tributes to the talented actress as she wrote: ‘Rest In Peace Shonka – an incredible talent taken from us too soon

Director of Elvis biopic, Baz Luhrmann took to his Instagram to share a gallery of sweet snaps including one of him kissing Dukureh on the forehead with the touching caption: 'A special light went out today and all of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh'

Director of Elvis biopic, Baz Luhrmann took to his Instagram to share a gallery of sweet snaps including one of him kissing Dukureh on the forehead with the touching caption: ‘A special light went out today and all of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh’

Director of Elvis biopic, Baz Luhrmann took to his Instagram to share a gallery of sweet snaps including one of him kissing Dukureh on the forehead with the touching caption: ‘A special light went out today and all of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh.

‘From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and her music. Whenever she was on set, on stage or even just in the room, everyone always felt uplifted. Shonka was just starting to find a larger audience for her tremendous talent, and I got to see her uplift whole crowds of people at Coachella and beyond.

‘A favorite word of Shonka’s, in daily use, was “blessings,” and I, along with the entire Elvis cast, crew and musical collaborators, feel truly blessed to have had time with her. We send all our love and support to Shonka’s children and family at this time.’

'All my prayers and love to the family of this Queen...': Alton Mason also paid tribute

‘All my prayers and love to the family of this Queen…’: Alton Mason also paid tribute

Thornton was the first to record Leiber and Stoller’s Hound Dog and the single was released in February 1953.

Three years later, Elvis Presley released a cover version which became a worldwide hit.

Speaking about the role, Dukureh told The Tennessean that she could relate to Thornton who ‘was really raw with what she did and very honest and truthful and [made] music as she felt it. And I could totally relate to that.’

Sudden: The blues singer and mother of two was found dead by one of her children in the apartment they shared.  Police say there is no suspicion of foul play and an autopsy is pending

Sudden: The blues singer and mother of two was found dead by one of her children in the apartment they shared. Police say there is no suspicion of foul play and an autopsy is pending

She went on: ‘I was very aware and wanting to really be intentional about making sure I was paying respect, respecting her, respecting her legacy, respecting her spirit, respecting everything about what she brought to music and understanding that I’m able to do it because she’s done it and laid that foundation.’

At the time of her death, Dukureh was working on her first full-length studio album which she described as ‘a tribute to the blues music genre in celebration of those fierce unsung pioneering artists and musicians who paved the way for the rock and roll music revolution.’

In April, Australian filmmaker Luhrmann had paid tribute to Dukureh who stars in the biopic opposite Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker.

Luhrmann, 59, shared pics of the two of them together and wrote: ‘The whole cast and crew of @Elvismovie are so thrilled and proud of @iamShonkaDukureh, who is playing Big Mama Thornton in the film, for her performance on stage at Coachella with @DojaCat for her new song ‘Vegas’.’

Plaudits: In April, Australian filmmaker Luhrmann had paid tribute to Dukureh who stars in the biopic opposite Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Col.  Tom Parker

Plaudits: In April, Australian filmmaker Luhrmann had paid tribute to Dukureh who stars in the biopic opposite Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker

Dukureh also recorded with and provided background vocals for the likes of Nick Cave, Mike Farris, Jamie Lidell and the Royal Pharaohs, among others.

Her initial goal was to become a teacher but later decided to pursue a career as a performing artist.

She graduated from Fisk University with a bachelor’s degree in theater.

She also held a master’s degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University, according to her website.

Unfinished: At the time of her death, Dukureh was working on her first full-length studio album which she described as 'a tribute to the blues music genre'

Unfinished: At the time of her death, Dukureh was working on her first full-length studio album which she described as ‘a tribute to the blues music genre’

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