(UPDATE: 10/12/2022 at 12:30 p.m. ET): The official American Idol Instagram account released a statement about Willie’s death at 12:00 p.m. ET on Oct. 12. “We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence,” the post read. “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.”
(ORIGINAL STORY) The American Idol family has lost a beloved former contestant. Willie Spence is dead after succumbing to injuries in a tragic Oct. 11 car accident. The singer’s local newspaper, Douglas Now, was first to report the news on Facebook. “DouglasNow has learned that Douglas native and American Idol season 19 runner-up Willie Spence, 23, has passed away due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Tennessee,” the outlet wrote. “We have no further details at this time. We extend our condolences to Willie’s family, friends and fans. He was an extraordinary talent and a ray of light to millions across the world. He will be missed.”
The information was also seemingly confirmed by Katharine McPhee, who performed with Willie during his time on Idol. She took to her Instagram Story to share that she “received very tragic news” as she informed fans about Willie’s passing. “Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised,” she wrote. “God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you.”
Willie won over the hearts of viewers during his run on Idol. In addition to having an incredible singing voice, Willie also had an incredible story. He shared that he was 600 pounds before coming on the show and was hospitalized with fluid in his lungs. This motivated him to lose weight, leading him to shed nearly 200 pounds before beginning his Idol journey.
Willie had posted a video on Instagram just hours before his death. In the clip, he was singing in a parked car. After hearing of Willie’s passing, fans began flooding the comments section of the post with messages of love for the late singer. “Fly and sing with the angels and dance amongst the stars friend,” one person wrote, while another added, “One of the most kind and genuine people I’ve ever endured. One of the most talented artists I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.” The outpouring of love from those who knew Willie both personally and as fans was felt in the aftermath of his death.
On American Idol, Willie lost to Chayce Beckham during the season 19 finale. However, he went on to continue pursuing music after his time on the show. He even had a show coming up in London on Nov. 12, which he had excitedly been posting about on Instagram starting in September. Some of his most memorable performances on Idol included his audition, where he sang “Diamonds” by Rihanna, as well as subsequent renditions of songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Set Fire to the Rain,” “Glory,” and “Georgia on My Mind.”
“I feel like I’ve changed as an artist,” Willie said after the show ended. “Before American Idol, I didn’t believe in myself as much as I should have as an artist and it has definitely helped my confidence and helped me believe in myself more. I feel like that is all I need for my career to take off. I just need to believe in myself a little more.”