‘Elvis’ star who plays Big Momma Thornton dies suddenly at 44

Blues singer and actress Shonka Dukureh died suddenly on July 21st. The mother of two children was 44 years old. According to The Tennessean, the actress was found unresponsive by one of her children in the bedroom of her Nashville apartment.

A cause of death has not yet been determined. However, the Metro Nashville Police Department said: “No foul play is apparent in the death today of actress Shonka Dukureh, 44, who portrayed Big Mama Thornton This Year “Elvis” Movie. Dukureh, a Fisk University graduate, was found dead in the bedroom of her Kothe Way apartment that she shared with her two young children,” read an update published on Twitter.

Elvis director Baz Lurhmann and Shonka Dukureh Photo: Bazlurhmann/Instagram

Dukureh, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, hit a career milestone this year when she starred in “Elvis” as legendary singer Willie Mae, aka “Big Momma Thornton.” Thornton was the first to record “Hound Dog” in 1952. The record was later re-recorded by Elvis.

“It was just a dream. I didn’t even know it was a dream [of mine] until I actually got there and experienced it all, but it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this life-changing experience,” she told Shadow & Act of Thornton’s performance last April.

“A special light went out today and the entire Elvis film family is heartbroken at the loss of Shonka Dukureh,” wrote Elvis director Baz Lurhmann in a tribute shared on Instagram. “From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and music. Whenever she was on set, on stage, or even just in the room, everyone always felt uplifted. Shonka was just starting to find a bigger audience for her tremendous talent, and I could see her cheering up entire crowds at Coachella and beyond. A favorite Shonka word in everyday use was “blessings” and I along with the entire Elvis cast, crew and musical staff feel truly blessed to have had time with her. We send all our love and support to Shonka’s children and family at this time.”

Dukureh also received a tribute from Doja Cat, which she performed with at Coachella last spring. On her Instagram story, she wrote: “Rest in peace Shonka – an incredible talent that was taken from us too soon. It was a true honor to meet her and I am so grateful to her for lending her incredible vocals to “Vegas”. Her amazing performance in Elvis alongside her other artistry will live on. I send my deepest condolences to her loved ones.”

The actress had plans to release a blues album paying homage to the genre entitled Lady Sings the Blues this summer.

https://atlantablackstar.com/2022/07/22/elvis-star-who-plays-big-momma-thornton-suddenly-dies-at-44/ ‘Elvis’ star who plays Big Momma Thornton dies suddenly at 44

James Brien

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