Icon Dead. With Heavy Hearts, We Announce The Passing. When You Find Out Who It Is, You Will Cry

The music world is mourning the loss of Debra Byrd, a beloved singer and esteemed voice teacher, who passed away at the age of 72. Byrd, known for her work on popular shows like "The Voice" and "American Idol," died at her home in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The exact cause of her death has yet to be confirmed, according to Deadline.

Tributes have poured in from many of Byrd's famous colleagues and friends, including longtime friend and collaborator Barry Manilow. In a heartfelt social media post, Manilow expressed his deep sorrow: "I’ve never been so sad in my life. I just can’t fathom the thought of Debra not being with me anymore. I had one of the best friends ever in her. My love, I will always miss you."

Byrd's impact on the music industry was profound. She worked with many big names, including Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, and Bob Dylan. Hudson shared her condolences on X (formerly Twitter), saying, "Heartbroken over the passing of Debra Byrd, the vocal coach on American Idol. From the start, she gave us hope and support! It’s amazing how much she taught us. She will be missed very much, but her music lives on through the work of many artists she inspired during her lifetime. Rest in peace, Debra."

Clay Aiken, another "American Idol" alumnus, also remembered Byrd's significant influence: "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. Her presence made many people’s lives better. I feel so lucky to have met her and become friends with her."

A Life of Musical Achievement and Mentorship

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Debra Byrd attended Kent State University before embarking on her music career. She honed her craft in the Karamu and Dobama Theaters during her studies. After graduation, Byrd joined Barry Manilow's band as a backup singer, achieving a top 30 single on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Street Singin'" by Ladyflash in 1976.

Byrd's extensive career included a decade-long tenure on "American Idol," where she mentored countless contestants before transitioning to "The Voice" to continue her work in nurturing new talent. Her contributions to music and entertainment were widely recognized, including her performance in the choir during the 2018 Academy Awards rendition of "Mighty River."

She also collaborated with Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, and the late Tom Petty on the 1986 song "Band of the Hand" and coached Dylan during his "Hard to Handle: Bob Dylan in Concert" tour in Australia in the mid-1980s. Byrd's film credits included work on "Sister Act II," "The Lion King 1½," and "The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride."

In 2019, NBC hired her to oversee vocal production for the Super Bowl tribute to Prince. Byrd eventually returned to academia, becoming the chair of the vocal department at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, where she continued to inspire and educate future generations of musicians.

Debra Byrd's legacy will be remembered through the many artists she mentored and the indelible mark she left on the music industry. Her passion, talent, and unwavering support for her students and colleagues will continue to inspire and resonate for years to come.

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