Willie Spence touched the hearts of millions when he competed on American Idol’s 19th season in 2021. He was eventually named the runner-up of the season, with Chayce Beckham being declared the winner.
Just a little over a year later, Spence was killed in a car crash on Interstate 24 near Chattanooga, Tennessee on October 11, 2022. He was only 23 years old.
Idol honored Spence by sharing a video of his audition on the show’s social media accounts. They said:
“We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence. 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.”
Early in his Idol journey, Spence performed a duet with another talented vocalist, Kya Moneé. The two of them sang together during Hollywood week.
The duo performed a stunning rendition of “Stay” by Rihanna and Mikky Ekko. Their performance brought Katy Perry to tears. They also earned high praise from Lionel Richie, who said their duet was “divine.”.
Moneé did not advance beyond the early stages of the competition. But she and Spence remained close. He actually planned to accompany her to her audition for Idol‘s newest season.
“I don’t know if y’all remember me, I was Willie’s duet partner,” Moneé told judges Luke Bryan, Perry, and Richie in the audition room.
Moneé spoke about her past on Idol. She detailed how she and Willie ended up singing together and became friends. So after his death, she was devastated. “Losing Willie was just very, very hard for me…and I’m still trying to cope with that,” she said.
Just three days before he passed, Spence was encouraging Moneé to go back on Idol. “I know that he would want me to be here…” she told the judges.
Moneé said she was going to perform a song that she and Spence picked together for her audition, “I’m Here” from the movie The Color Purple.
All of the judges were visibly emotional as they listened to Moneé’s performance. Richie could even be seen wiping tears from his eyes.
The judges awarded Moneé with a standing ovation once she finished singing. Richie rushed to give her a hug and offered her his spare handkerchief to dry her tears.
Bryan, who’s lost his brother, sister, and brother-in-law, told Moneé, “You know I’ve lost some people in my life. And when you go to sing, you just sing like Willie’s still here,” he said.
From there, the judges cast their votes, and they all agreed to give Moneé a golden ticket to Hollywood. Head below to watch her powerful audition performance.
We’re sure Spence would be so proud of his friend…