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‘Elvis’ actor and singer Shonka Dukureh, 44, found dead in her Nashville apartment

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“Elvis” actor Shonka Dukureh was found dead Thursday in the Nashville, Tennessee apartment she shared with her two young children, 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 released last month.

One of her children found her unconscious in the bedroom of her Kothe Way apartment and ran to a neighbor’s apartment for help, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department. According to authorities, the neighbor called the police at 9:27 a.m.

There is no malicious intent “obvious” in her death, police said.

Her death has not been classified pending the coroner’s autopsy results.

NBC News is contacting its representatives for comment.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper shared his condolences Thursday said: “Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day.”

“Elvis” director Baz Luhrmann paid tribute to Dukureh on Instagram. “Today a special light has gone out and the entire Elvis film family is heartbroken at the loss of Shonka Dukureh,” he wrote.

“Whenever she was on set, on stage, or even just in the room, everyone always felt upbeat. Shonka was just starting to find a bigger audience for her tremendous talent, and I saw her lifting crowds of people at Coachella and beyond,” Luhrmann continued.

“I, along with the entire Elvis cast, crew and musical collaborators, feel truly blessed to have had time with her. We are sending all our love and support to Shonka’s children and family at this time.”

The post was shared by actor Austin Butler who played Elvis in the film.

Dukureh was from Charlotte, North Carolina, and lived in Nashville. She studied theater at Fisk University and, according to her, had a master’s degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University. website.

“Shonka’s initial ambition was to become a teacher, but she would soon learn that her vocal talents, coupled with an innate sense of drama, were best suited to a career as a performing artist,” her website says.

“Elvis” was Dukureh’s first major film role and her voice can be heard in the film version of “Hound Dog”. The character she played, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, was the first to record Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Hound Dog” in 1952.

Reflecting on her role as Big Mama Thornton, she shared: the Tennessee: “[Big Mama Thornton] was really raw with what she was doing and very honest and truthful and [made] music as she felt it. And I could totally relate to that”

“I was very aware and wanted to be very aware to make sure I respected, respected her, respected her legacy, respected her spirit, respected everything she brought into the music and understood that I can do it because they did and laid that foundation,” she added.



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