“Elvis” actress Shonka Ducoure was found dead Thursday in the apartment where she lived with her two young children in Nashville, Tennessee, police said.
She was 44 years old.
Dukureh, a blues singer, played Big Mama Thornton in the blockbuster biopic about Elvis Presley’s rise to stardom that came out last month.
One of her children found her unresponsive in the bedroom of her Kothe Way apartment and ran to a neighbor’s apartment for help, according to Nashville Metro Police Department. The neighbor called the police at 9:27 a.m., according to authorities.
Police said there was “no sinister play” in her death.
Her death is not confidential pending autopsy results from the medical examiner’s office.
NBC News is reaching out to its representatives for comment.
Share Nashville Mayor John Cooper Condolences Al-Khamis, saying: “Her strong voice and artistic artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day.”
‘Elvis’ director Baz Luhrmann praised Dukureh on Instagram. He wrote, “A special light went out today and the entire Elvis family mourned the loss of Shonka Dukureh.”
“Whenever she was on set, on stage or even in the room, everyone always felt so relaxed. Shunka was just starting to find a bigger audience for her tremendous talent, and she was able to see whole crowds of people in Coachella and beyond,” Luhrmann continued.
“I, along with the entire Elvis cast, crew and musical collaborators, feel really fortunate to spend time with her. We are sending all our love and support to the Shunka children and family at this time.”
The post shared actor Austin Butler, who portrayed Elvis in the movie.
Ducoure was from Charlotte, North Carolina and lived in Nashville. She studied theater at Fisk University and earned a master’s degree in Education from Trevika Nazarene University, according to her. website.
“Shunka’s initial career ambition was to become a teacher, however, she soon learned that her vocal talents, along with an innate sense of drama were the most suitable for a career as a performing artist,” her website explains.
“Elvis” was Dukureh’s first major movie role and it was her voice in the film version of “Hound Dog”. The character played by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, was the first to record “Hound Dog” by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller in 1952.
She mirrored her role as Big Mama Thornton Tennessee: “[Big Mama Thornton] She was really harsh with what she did and very honest and honest and [made] Music as I felt it. I can totally relate to that.”
“I was very aware and I really wanted to make sure I was respecting her, respecting her, respecting her legacy, respecting her spirit, respecting everything about what she brought to the music and understanding that I was able to do that because she did that and she laid that foundation.”
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