American Idol runner-up Willie Spence dies in a tragic car accident at age 23.
Willie Spence, the season 19 runner-up on “American Idol,” has died following a car accident, the show confirmed in a social media post. The singer was also known for a viral video in which he sang a rendition of Rihanna’s hit “Diamonds.” He was 23 years old.
According to a report citing the Marion County Sheriff’s office, Spence was killed in a car accident in Tennessee on Tuesday. The singer was driving an SUV when he went off the road and crashed into a tractor trailer that had stopped on the shoulder, according to the accident report.
“We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence,” reads the caption on a video of Spence’s audition, posted on the show’s official Instagram account. “He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his loved ones.”
A West Palm Beach, Florida native, Spence had relocated with his family to Georgia as a child, where his talent for singing was discovered in high school. A video of him singing “Diamonds” in 2017 in what appeared to be a classroom went viral, accruing more than 15 million views on YouTube.
Spence chose to perform the song again for his “American Idol” audition in 2021. His voice blew away judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan. Richie declared his performance “unbelievable.”
“When you think about your future, and you think about the voice you have — ’cause you know it stops people in their tracks, this is the magic you have — in five years, what do you want it to look like?” Katy Perry asked Spence after his performance.
“I just want my voice to reach the world and just share my gift,” Spence answered. “Hopefully winning a Grammy one day. That’s where I see myself in five years.”