Shonka Dukureh Dies: Blues Singer Who Played Big Mama Thornton In Elvis Film Was 44

Shonka Dukureh, who just made her film debut in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, was found dead in her Nashville, Tenn. apartment on Thursday, police said. She was 44 and was found in her bedroom.

One of her two children discovered her body and went to a neighbor for help. The 911 call came in at 9:27 AM Nashville time, police said. Foul play is not suspected and the city’s medical examiner is working on finding a cause of death.

Dukureh played Big Mama Thornton in the Elvis film. Thornton was the first to record the classic “Hound Dog” song later recording by Presley. Kukureh is also featured singing the song on the film’s soundtrack.

Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Dukureh received a bachelor’s degree in theater from Fisk University, followed by a a master’s degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University.

Dukureh has performed and recorded with Jamie Lidell and the Royal Pharaohs, Nick Cave, Mike Farris, Pete Rock, Smoke Dza and Bahamas, according to her website.

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