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Cleveland Native and Hollywood Vocal Coach, Debra Byrd Passes Away at 72

Debra Byrd - Getty Images
Debra Byrd - Getty Images

CLEVELAND, OH - Debra Byrd, a pivotal figure in the music industry known for her extensive work as a vocal coach on popular TV shows such as The Voice and American Idol, has died at the age of 72 in Los Angeles. The cause of death remains undisclosed. Byrd's remarkable career spanned several decades, during which she mentored a diverse array of talent, including iconic artists like Barry Manilow, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, and Bob Dylan.

Byrd's impact on the industry was profound, with her expertise not only shaping the voices of individual artists but also enhancing performances on Canadian Idol, Military Idol, The Oscars, and Majors & Minors. Her contributions extended beyond television to include significant roles in Broadway productions and involvement in the soundtracks of major films such as Thumbelina, The Lion King, and Sister Act II.


Jennifer Hudson, one of Byrd's most notable students, expressed her sorrow over Byrd's passing, emphasizing the deep gratitude she and many others feel for the guidance and support Byrd provided. "Heartbroken over the passing of Debra Byrd, the vocal coach on American Idol. She will be dearly missed, but her legacy lives on through the music of countless artists she influenced during her lifetime," Hudson shared.


Barry Manilow also paid tribute to Byrd, reflecting on their time together in the 1970s when Byrd was part of his backup group Ladyflash. He shared his grief and fond memories of Byrd, describing her as one of the most wonderful friends he has ever had. The song "Street Singin'," a collaboration between Manilow and Ladyflash, reached number 27 on the Billboard charts in 1976, showcasing the successful partnership and talent within the group.


Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Byrd's musical journey began at Kent State University, where she honed her craft before making significant contributions to the Karamu and Dobama Theaters. Her role as Da Singer in the Broadway hit Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk further solidified her status as a versatile and influential figure in the entertainment world.


Byrd's legacy and influence will continue to be felt through the many artists she mentored and the countless audiences she touched through her work. As the music industry and her loved ones mourn her passing, they also celebrate the extraordinary life and contributions of Debra Byrd.


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