‘American Idol’ Contestant CJ Harris Dead at 31
A country, rock and soul singer who hailed from Jasper, Ala., Harris' powerful voice and magnetic stage presence drew praise from the Idol judges, including Keith Urban.
"You sing because you have to sing, not because you want to sing," Urban told Harris after one performance, according to AL.com. "That's why it's so believable and real...I just believed it and I felt it."
A get-to-know-you video that Idol aired during Harris' season describes him as a raw talent who grew up playing football in high school, but always had dreams of musical stardom.
"I wanna be somebody," he says in the video, "I wanna be more than just a person employed at a job, working every day." He also introduced viewers at the time to his young son, saying, "he deserves more than what I've ever had and more than what I've ever seen."
During the competition, Harris drew in fans with performances of songs like the Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post" and Tom Petty's "Free Falling." His final performance was a rendition of Zac Brown Band's "Whatever It Is." Harris had long named Darius Rucker as an influence — the country star's "Alright" was his song of choice during his Top 8 performance — and after his time on the show was over, he performed with Rucker on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
Harris' debut single, "In Love," came out in 2019.
Per TMZ, a family member says that Harris died on Sunday (Jan. 15) after suffering an apparent heart attack in his hometown of Jasper. He was rushed to the hospital, but efforts to save his life were unsuccessful.