American Idol Contestant Willie Spence Is Dead At 23

Willie Spence after singing a Sam Cooke cover on American Idol.
(Image credit: ABC)

Former American Idol contestant Willie Spence is dead at 23. The singer died in a car crash that occurred on Tuesday, October 11.

A family source told TMZ that Spence crashed into a semi-truck that was parked on the side of the road. The incident happened while Spence was in Tennessee. TMZ reported that a family source said Spence had a flat tire that had allegedly been fixed earlier that day, and he then was said to have continued to drive from Tennessee to Atlanta. 

Many fans and friends of the singer posted their condolences in the comments of Spence's most recent post, including Liamani Segura, who was on the last season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. She commented: 

Fly and sing with the angels and dance amongst the stars friend! RIH 🥺🕊️✨

Along with Segura, Ali Cladwell, a former The Voice contestant posted: 

Wowww my heart really hurts! May you rest in paradise Willie 🙏🏾😢 Such a star! ⭐️ And a sweet soul! You will be missed! ❤️

Just a few hours before the crash Spence posted a video in his car singing: 

Along with the comments, Katharine McPhee, a former American Idol contestant, and known for her lead role on NBC’s Smash, posted a tribute to Spence on her Instagram stories. McPhee mentioned the video Spence had posted in another slide on her stories. She wrote how "life is so unfair" and "nothing is ever promised." She also noted that it was a "pleasure" to perform with him. You can see the post below:

Katharine McPhee posted a video honoring Willie Spence on her Instagram stories.

(Image credit: Katharine McPhee's Instagram)

The actress/singer performed with Spence in Season 19. They sang “The Prayer” together, which was written by her husband David Foster. 

Along with McPhee, Spence's gorgeous voice stunned the judges and audiences on the popular singing competition. 

He became known to the public during Season 19 of American Idol, a show that is always a TV schedule staple. He made it all the way to the finale and sang songs like “A Change is Gonna Come” and “Georgia on My Mind.” Chayce Beckham won that season of Idol with Spence as the runner-up. However, during the season, the stellar top five contestants made it hard to know who would win. Even with surprise eliminations, Spence was a contender to win the show, and it’s super impressive that he ended up as the runner-up. 

In his audition, he sang “Diamonds” by Rihanna. It was a beautiful, slowed-down version of the pop hit. Not only did he stun the judges, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan – Richie gave him a standing ovation – the video also has nearly 4 million views on YouTube. 

After his time on the singing competition, Spence released an EP called The Voice, and was performing frequently. According to his Instagram, he was set to perform in London on November 12.  

We at CinemaBlend send our condolences to those close to Willie Spence during their time of mourning.

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.