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'Elvis' Actor And Blues Singer Shonka Dukureh Found Dead At Age 44 By One Of Her Children

Police in Nashville say that no foul play appears to be evident after Shonka Dukureh was found dead in her bedroom by one of her two young children.

By Gina Tron
Shonka Dukureh as Big Mama Thornton in “ELVIS"

A beloved singer and actor who recently starred in Baz Luhrmann's “Elvis” has been found dead in her bedroom by one of her children.

Shonka Dukureh, 44, was found dead inside the bedroom of her Nashville apartment on Thursday, the Metro Nashville Police Department announced in a press release.

They noted that one of her “two young children” had “found her unresponsive and ran to a neighbor’s apartment” on Thursday morning. The neighbor then called 911.

Police stated that “no foul play is evident.”

Her cause of death is considered “unclassified at present pending autopsy results from the Medical Examiner’s Office,” the press release states.

Dukureh portrayed Big Mama Thornton — the Black woman who first recorded "Hound Dog," which Elvis Presley then made famous — in the musical movie “Elvis,” which was released in June. The film, directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann, is currently still in theaters. 

The actor, playwright and singer grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and lived in Nashville. She held a bachelor's degree in theater from Fisk University and a master's degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University, according to her website. She aspired to be a teacher before becoming a performing artist. 

In addition to her recent first big movie role, Dukureh had been gearing up to release her first studio album this year.

“The project is a tribute to the blues music genre in celebration of those fierce unsung pioneering artists and musicians who paved the way for the rock 'n' roll music revolution,” she said of the album on her website.

Since news of her death broke, friends and fans alike have taken to social media to mourn her and her talent. 

DojaCat, who sang “Vegas” on the "Elvis" movie soundtrack, stated in an Instagram story that it "was a true honor getting to know her and I am so grateful to her for lending her incredible vocals to 'Vegas'," the Tennessean reports

Meanwhile, Nashville mayor John Cooper tweeted that “her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day.”

Dukureh’s website stated that she was “just getting started” with her career.

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