“American Idol” alum C.J. Harris, who competed on Season 13 and placed sixth overall, died Sunday at age 31 following a medical emergency, a spokesperson for the Walker County Coroner confirmed to USA TODAY.
TMZ first reported the news, with a family member telling the outlet that Harris suffered a heart attack. An official cause of death has not been released.
In 2014, Harris performed the Allman Brothers’ “Soul Shine” in his audition, garnering praise from then-judge Keith Urban who said, “You sing ’cause you have to sing, not ’cause you want to sing. And I mean that in the deepest way. And that’s why it’s so believable and real.” Harris went on to sing songs including John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change,” Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” and Darius Rucker’s “Radio” before finishing in sixth place. He released his debut single, “In Love,” in 2019.
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The Alabama native spoke about the impact of his “Idol” experience in a 2014 interview with AL.com.
“I grew up in the church, playing gospel music and singing in the choir. I guess I was a little nervous to go on ‘Idol,’ because I didn’t know if I was prepared. I didn’t have the training,” Harris said at the time. “Now, when I get on stage in front of these crowds, it doesn’t matter if I have my eyes closed. I don’t have to keep a camera view. I can calm down, relax and be myself. Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to see those lights on stage. Every time I get into my bed right after a show, I still can’t believe I’ve been on stage. I’m having a lot more fun than I did on the TV show.”
In October, another “American Idol” alum, Willie Spence, died at 23 after hitting the rear end of a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder of an interstate, according to reports by ABC News and NBC News citing a Tennessee Highway Patrol report. He finished in second place on Season 19.
In November 2020, Nikki McKibbin, who finished in third place behind Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini on the first season of “American Idol,” died at 42.