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Shonka Dukureh, singer and actress from "Elvis" movie, dies at 44

Shonka Dukureh performing in the “Elvis” movie. | Source:

Hollywood is suffering an unexpected and unfortunate loss after reports confirm that blues singer and budding actress Shonka Dukureh was found dead Thursday inside her apartment in Nashville, Tennessee.

The rising star’s shocking death comes on the heels of a standout performance in the new Elvis biopic currently in theaters. The HBCU graduate was just 44 years old.

Not much was immediately known surrounding the details of her death, only that it was first learned about on Thursday morning when, in a crushing twist of fate, Dukureh was found by one of her young children. A neighbor was immediately contacted and 911 arrived sometime around 9:30 a.m., according to TMZ.


Per TMZ, “police say there’s no foul play suspected in the actress’ death.” However, as is standard procedure, the local medical examiner’s office will conduct an autopsy to determine Dukureh’s cause of death.

Dukureh plays Big Mama Thornton in Elvis, reenacting the real-life story of blues singer Willie Mae Thornton who came to fame by originally singing the classic hit “Hound Dog.” Dukureh even reprised the role in the music video for Doja Cat’s recent smash “Vegas” from the film’s soundtrack which samples the OG Big Mama tune.

More below on the life of Shonka Dukureh and her future aspirations that will sadly now go unfulfilled, via The Tennessean:

“Dukureh — a Charlotte, North Carolina native and Nashville resident — graduated from Fisk University with a bachelor’s degree in theater. She also held a master’s degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University.

The performing artist played her first major film role as Big Mama Thornton, a task she did not take lightly.

‘[Big Mama Thornton] 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,’ noted Dukureh.

‘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.’

Originally interested in pursuing education, the teacher turned Hollywood star was set to release her first studio album this summer, according to her website.”

We send our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the late Shonka Dukureh. Rest well, queen…


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Shonka Dukureh, Blues Singer Who Found Fame In ‘Elvis’ Biopic, Dies At 44  was originally published on