Shonka Dukureh: who was Big Mama Thornton actress from Elvis film

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<p>Shonka Dukureh starred as blues singer Big Mama Thornton in this year’s Elvis movie (Picture: Warner Bros)</p>
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Shonka Dukureh played blues singer Big Mama Thornton in this year’s Elvis movie (Photo: Warner Bros.)

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Singer and actress Shonka Dukureh, who starred as blues singer Big Mama Thornton in this year’s Elvis movie, has been found dead at her home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dukureh, 44, was found unresponsive in a bedroom of one of her two young children, with whom she lived in an apartment, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement.

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Her child is said to have gone to a neighbor’s apartment, who then called the emergency services.

Shonka Dukureh played blues singer Big Mama Thornton in this year’s Elvis movie (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Police say there is no evidence of third-party negligence and the coroner’s autopsy is pending to determine the cause of death.

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Nashville Mayor John Cooper took to social media to offer his condolences to Dukureh’s family, saying she graduated from Fisk University in the city she has called home for many years.

He wrote: “My deepest condolences to Shonka Dukureh’s family. Shonka graduated @Fisk1866 and called Nashville home for many years. Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music and we honor her memory on this sad day.”

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What else has she starred in?

The 44-year-old had a theater degree from Fisk University in Nashville and a degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene, WPLN-FM reported.

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In an interview with the channel last month, Dukureh said she taught second grade students for a time and then worked with inner-city youth through after-school and summer programs. She said these students came forward after seeing her in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic.

Her original career aspiration was to be a teacher, but her talent for singing led her to pursue a career in the performing arts, and her role as Big Mama Thornton in the Elvis biopic, released earlier this year, marked her first major film role.

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She also shared the stage at Coachella earlier this year with Doja Cat and previously toured internationally with recording artist Jamie Liddell and The Royal Pharohs.

Her other recording credits include backing vocals for Grammy Award-winner Mike Farris on his 2018 album Silver and Stone, backing vocals for legendary music producer Pete Rock and Smoke Dza’s 2016 album Don’t Smoke Rocks, and background -Vocals for multiple Grammy Award-winning actress Ashley Cleveland’s 2009 album God Don’t Never Change.

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Dukureh has also acted in many touring musicals and plays and received critical acclaim for her role in American Duet, where she won the 2003 Tennessean Theater Award for Best Musical Direction or Performance as a Singer.

She also spent over ten years touring across the country to college campuses and conferences to perform with Freedom Sings, a First Amendment Center multimedia music production.

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The teacher-turned-Hollywood star was set to release her debut studio album, titled The Lady Sings the Blues, this summer, according to her website.

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