Jennifer Hudson, Barry Manilow mourn death of ‘American Idol’ vocal coach Debra Byrd

“American Idol” is mourning the loss of former vocal coach Debra Byrd and the show’s alumni are speaking out in her honor.

In a statement also posted to social media, reps for the ABC reality TV singing competition celebrated Byrd’s life after she died at 72.

“American Idol is mourning the loss of Debra Byrd, who was affectionately known as “Byrd” on set,” the statement read. “She served as a vocal coach on the show for its first ten seasons and played an essential role in the program’s success throughout that decade. By working closely with the contestants, she was able to guide them and became a trusted figure for many stars.”

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“Debra was a kind and caring person who always had a smile on her face. She was an integral part of the Idol family, and we are grateful to have so many wonderful memories of her,” the statement continued.

In addition to “Idol,” Hudson appeared as a vocal coach on NBC’s hit “The Voice” and also contributed as a singer on the film soundtracks for “The Lion King, “2 1/2” and “Sister Act II.” She also worked with Barry Manilow for several years, touring in the star’s group Ladyflash, according to Deadline.

Byrd was a vocal coach during the former FOX show’s first 10 seasons and mentored contestants such as Jennifer Hudson, who was among a slew of former contestants who paid tribute to the late beloved singer.

Jennifer Hudson says she’s ‘heartbroken’ over former vocal coach Debra Byrd’s passing
Talk show host and EGOT-winner Hudson, who was a finalist on the third season of the FOX edition, was “heartbroken” over the death of Byrd.

“She encouraged and supported us from the very beginning ! I am so grateful for everything she taught us. She will be dearly missed, but her legacy lives on through the music of countless artists she influenced during her lifetime. Rest in peace, Debra,” Hudson wrote on Instagram on Wednesday.

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Legendary singer Manilow bid farewell to his beloved friend in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This is one of the saddest days of my life. 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 said.

“American Idol” season two runner-up Clay Aiken remembered Byrd in a statement to Deadline.

“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,” Aiken said. “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.”

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