Debra Byrd dead at 72: American Idol star passes away as Jennifer Hudson leads tributes

Debra Byrd dead at 72: American Idol star passes away as Jennifer Hudson leads tributes Debra Byrd dead at 72: American Idol star passes away as Jennifer Hudson leads tributes
Debra Byrd dead at 72: American Idol star passes away as Jennifer Hudson leads tributes | Getty Images
American Idol star Debra Byrd died on Tuesday (March 5), aged 72.

Debra Byrd, best known for starring on American Idol and The Voice, has died, aged 72. The professional music coach and singer passed away on Tuesday (March 5) in Los Angeles, but no cause of death has yet been confirmed.

Byrd appeared as a vocal coach for ten seasons of the hit TV show, American Idol during the 00s. During her time on the stateside show, she helped the contestants behind the scenes with their performances.

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The music expert is also credited for recommending Jennifer Hudson for her Oscar-winning role as Effie White in Dreamgirls. She worked closely with the superstar singer and taught fellow musicians such as Barry Manilow, Bob Dylan, and Kelly Clarkson.

Hudson - who rose to fame in 2004 as a finalist on American Idol - led tributes to the star with a heartbreaking post on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. The post reads: "Heartbroken over the passing of Debra Byrd, the vocal coach on American Idol. She encouraged and supported us from the very beginning!.

"I am so grateful for everything she taught us. She will be dearly missed, but her legacy lives on through the music of countless artists she influenced during her lifetime. Rest in peace, Debra."

Barry Manilow also paid tribute to his former mentor, posting: "This is one of the saddest days of my life. I just can’t wrap my mind around the fact that Debra is no longer with me. "She was one of the most wonderful friends I’ve ever had. I will miss you forever, my love."

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Away from the world of showbiz, Debra was chair of the vocal department at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. She also served as an artist in residence at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 19 1951, Byrd studied at Kent State University and attended the Karamu and Dobama Theatres. Byrd also starred on Broadway, and garnered acclaim for her role as ‘Da Singer’ in the national touring company of Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk.

In 2001, She was nominated for a Black Theatre Alliance Award for 'Could It Be Magic'. The performer has Broadway credits on shows such as Barry Manilow on Broadway, The Human Comedy, and Haarlem Nocturne.

Away from performing, Byrd was the chair of the vocal department at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and served as an artist in residence at the illustrious Berklee College of Music.​​ 

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