'Elvis' actress Shonka Dukureh dies aged 44

The singer and actress was found unresponsive in her Nashville home

Shonka Dukureh, who plays Big Momma Thornton in 'Elvis', has died aged 44. Photo: Warner Bros
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Shonka Dukureh, the singer and actress who recently portrayed blues singer Big Mama Thornton in the Baz Luhrmann film, Elvis has died. She was 44.

Dukureh was found unresponsive in a bedroom at her apartment in Nashville, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement. She was discovered by one of her two young children who ran to get help from a neighbour, who then called emergency services.

The police also confirmed that no foul play was suspected. Dukureh’s death remains unclassified, but an autopsy has been scheduled to determine the cause of her death.

Dukureh had a promising career ahead of her after her big screen debut as the legendary blues singer-songwriter Big Mama Thornton, the singer who first recorded Elvis Presley's hit Hound Dog in 1952. Dukureh performance of the classic song went viral on TikTok after the film’s release.

The actress also featured in the music video of Doja Cat's Vegas, a single from the film’s soundtrack, and shared the stage with the hip-hop artist at Coachella this year.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper tweeted his condolences to Dukureh's family and paid tribute to the singer and actress, stating that “her powerful voice and artistry will live through her music".

Aside from being a talented singer and actress, Dukureh was also a playwright, with a bachelors degree in theatre from Fisk University and a masters degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University.

She started her career as a second grade teacher and worked with inner-city youth through after-school and summer programmes while pursuing her singing and acting career.

Dukureh was working on releasing her first studio album, The Lady Sings the Blues 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 wrote on her website.

Scroll through the gallery below for pictures of Baz Luhrmann's 'Elvis' cast

Updated: August 01, 2022, 8:11 AM