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 March 9, 2024

Famed vocal coach and singer Debra Byrd, who worked with greats like Jennifer Hudson, Barry Manilow, and Bob Dylan, is dead at 72

Debra Byrd, a singer, performer, and vocal coach to the stars, passed away in Los Angeles Tuesday, SkyNews reported. There was no cause of death listed for the 72-year-old star.

Byrd has been around the music industry for decades using her talents in various ways. She has spent some of that time performing, but most of her accomplishments come from her behind-the-scenes work.

As an American Idol voice coach, Byrd touched the lives of many contestants, including Jennifer Hudson. The multi-talented singer, actress, and talk show host posted a tribute to Byrd on Instagram.


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A post shared by Jennifer Hudson (@iamjhud)

Celebrities Memorialize Byrd

Fellow American Idol alum Clay Aiken similarly had kind words of remembrance for Byrd. "I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that no one was a better mentor, coach, teacher, or champion to us Idol contestants than Byrd was," the 45-year-old singer said, according to Rolling Stone.

"No one spent more time with us. I’ll never forget her drilling into us how we needed to look right into the camera and connect with the audience at home. She was a light in so many lives. I am so lucky that I got to call her a friend," he added.

Byrd spent 10 seasons working with contestants like Aiken and Hudson on American Idol. She later lent those same talents to The Voice and Canadian Idol, where she spent another six seasons.

World-famous singer Barry Manilow, who performed with Byrd in the 1970s, also shared kind words about his longtime friend on X, formerly Twitter. "This is one of the saddest days of my life," the "Copacabana" singer wrote.

"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," Manilow wrote.

Her Legacy

Byrd's career took her in many directions within the music industry. She performed on stage with famous artists like Manilow and Bob Dylan but also found success on the stage and in film.

She starred as Da Singer in "'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk" during the Broadway show's national tour. Byrd also had roles in the films "Two Can Play That Game," "Deliver Us from Eva," and "Thumbelina."

Other accomplishments included her involvement in the Spike Lee-directed 2019 Super Bowl halftime show, which featured a tribute to the late singer Prince, and the Oscars. However, Byrd formalized her love for teaching by joining academia.

Byrd served as chairwoman for the vocal department of the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, where other young artists would get their start. Although she was gifted in her own right, Byrd was always eager to help up-and-coming artists develop their talents.

It's a shame that such a light is gone from the music world. Her legacy remains in the music she made, the artists she trained, and the people whose lives were touched by all of her work.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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