Shonka Dukureh, Actress Who Sang ‘Hound Dog’ In ‘Elvis,’ Dies At 44

One of her co-stars dubbed her performance as Big Mama Thornton in her Hollywood debut “a mystical experience.”

A body was discovered on Thursday in Nashville belonging to Shonka Dukureh, who made her Hollywood debut playing Big Mama Thornton, a famous blues singer, in the upcoming Baz Luhrmann film Elvis. At the time, she was 44 years old.

No foul play was detected, although the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department did not disclose a cause of death. On Thursday morning, one of Ms. Dukureh’s two young daughters reportedly discovered her unresponsive in her bedroom and hurried to inform a neighbor, who then phoned the police.

Shonka Dukureh, Actress Who Sang ‘Hound Dog’ In ‘Elvis,’ Dies At 44
Shonka Dukureh, Actress Who Sang ‘Hound Dog’ In ‘Elvis,’ Dies At 44

Mr. Luhrmann’s long-awaited biopic, “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler as the King and Tom Hanks as his manager, Tom Parker, premiered in June.

Ms. Dukureh’s first notable role was as Big Mama Thornton, the singer who sang “Hound Dog” in 1952, a year before it became a smash for Elvis Presley. She finally found a part that could showcase both her powerful voice and her growing acting abilities in Thornton.

One of her most popular performances was  “Hound Dog, “in which she sang with incredible passion and intensity. She intended to drop a studio album named “The Lady Sings the Blues.”

Ms. Dukureh said that she had been born on September 3, 1977, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and that she was currently residing in Nashville.

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Her website states she has a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Fisk University and a master’s degree in education from Nashville’s Trevecca Nazarene University, so it’s safe to assume that she had taught in mind from the start. Instead, she decided to study art. Her strong singing was featured on multiple CDs and she toured the world with Jamie Lidell and the Royal Pharaohs.

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