‘American Idol’ Alum CJ Harris Dead at 31 From Heart Attack
C.J. Harris, a former American Idol contestant who came sixth in season 13, died in Alabama Sunday. He was 31.
On Thursday, the Walker County Coroner’s Office confirmed Harris died from a heart attack, People reported. Harris was rushed to Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper, Alabama, where attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
Harris first auditioned for American Idol in 2010 before finally securing a spot on the show in 2014, Variety reported. During his time waiting to get cast on Idol, Harris tried out for other singing competition series like The X-Factor and The Voice.
“I was always on the internet, trying to find a break, looking for which producers I could send my stuff to. I searched for American Idol and I saw they were doing the bus tour and they were going to be 30 minutes down the road from me,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. “I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to give it another chance. I’ve gotten so much better, my voice has matured and my playing has gotten so much better.”
When he finally landed on Idol, Harris made a strong impression on judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr. with his rendition of the Allman Brothers’ “Soulshine” at the Salt Lake City auditions. Harris continued throughout the competition with performances of Tom Petty‘s “Free Fallin'”, “Invisible” by Hunter Hayes, “Can’t You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band, and “If It Hadn’t Been for Love” by The SteelDrivers.
Harris’ love for music started during childhood when his mother would sing to him over the phone while serving out time in prison.
“Tears would just flow out of my eyes,” he said.
“When I was a little older, my granddad gave me a guitar. He had one in the shed and it had three strings on it. He said I didn’t need to buy a whole new set of strings. So I would tune it in a way that when I strummed it, it sounded like it’s in a key of whatever.”
American Idol released a statement on Twitter in response to Harris’ death: “C.J. Harris was an incredible talent, and the news of his passing deeply saddens us. He will be truly missed.”
C.J. Harris was an incredible talent, and the news of his passing deeply saddens us. He will be truly missed. pic.twitter.com/23s6acSUZp
— American Idol (@AmericanIdol) January 16, 2023