Shonka Dukureh dead: ‘Elvis’ actor and singer was 44
Shonka Dukureh, the singer and actress who played Big Mama Thornton in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” was found dead Thursday at her apartment in Nashville, Tennessee, police confirmed. She was 44 years old.
According to a tweet from the Metro Nashville Police Department, no foul play is evident in Dukureh’s death. “Fisk Univ graduate Dukureh was found dead in the bedroom of her Kothe Way apartment which she shared with her 2 young children,” the tweet read.
BREAKING: No foul play is evident in today’s death of actress Shonka Dukureh, 44, who played Big Mama Thornton in this year’s Elvis film. Fisk Univ graduate Dukureh was found dead in the bedroom of her Kothe Way flat which she shared with her 2 young children.
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) July 21, 2022
As The Tennessean reported, Dukureh was found unresponsive Thursday morning by one of her children, who drove to a neighbor for help. The cause of death is not yet known and will be determined by the medical examiner.
Dukureh got his breakout role this year on “Elvis” as Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, the iconic R&B singer-songwriter who was the first to record Jerry Leiber’s “Hound Dog” and Mike Stoller in 1952, which would later be equalized more famously by Elvis Presley. “Elvis” was Dukureh’s first major film role, and his voice is featured on the film’s soundtrack in his version of “Hound Dog.”
According to The Tennessean, Dukureh was from Charlotte, North Carolina, but later became a resident of Nashville. She received a bachelor’s degree in theater from Fisk University and a master’s degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University. According to his website, Dukureh planned to release his first full album soon. “The project is a tribute to the genre of blues music as a tribute to those fierce, unsung pioneering artists and musicians who paved the way for the rock ‘n roll music revolution,” Dukureh wrote on his website.
Throughout his career, Dukureh has performed and recorded with artists including Jamie Lidell and the Royal Pharaohs, Nick Cave, Mike Farris, Pete Rock, Smoke Dza and Bahamas, according to his website.