American Idol season 21: Who is Willie Spence? (Dedication explained)

AMERICAN IDOL - "418 (My Personal Idol/Artist Singles)" - "American Idol" gets closer to crowning its winner as the top four become the top three who will head to the finale on a live coast-to-coast episode airing SUNDAY, MAY 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Eric McCandless)WILLIE SPENCE, GRACE KINSTLER
AMERICAN IDOL - "418 (My Personal Idol/Artist Singles)" - "American Idol" gets closer to crowning its winner as the top four become the top three who will head to the finale on a live coast-to-coast episode airing SUNDAY, MAY 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Eric McCandless)WILLIE SPENCE, GRACE KINSTLER /
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The American Idol season 21 premiere ended with quite an emotional moment designed to dedicate the late Willie Spence in the most unexpected of ways.

In the final audition of the season 21 premiere, Kya Monee’ from season 19 returned to the show to chase her dream once more which is when the waterworks began for audiences at home. During her audition, Monee’ fought back tears as she recalled the friendship she built with Spence during their time as contestants on season 19 and the pain that came from losing a friend.

“Losing Willie was very, very hard for me. I’m still trying to cope with that. Willie always told me: ‘No matter what, you will always be a singer.’ … Three days before he passed, Willie was telling me, ‘You have to go back. You have to chase your dreams.’ He made me want to do it, and I’d really like to make it further. Most of all, I want to make Willie proud,” Monee’ emotionally told the judges as she revealed that he had originally planned on accompanying her to the audition.

It was a truly emotional moment that left not a dry eye among those in the room and at home and was a beautiful tribute to the late Spence.

What happened to Willie Spence from American Idol?

Sadly, Willie Spence passed away in October 2022 following an automobile accident that occurred in Marion County in East Tennessee. According to the preliminary report from Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Marion County medical examiner via NBC News, “Spence’s 2019 Jeep Cherokee ‘left the roadway’ and collided with the back of a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder of the east side of Interstate 24.” He was 23.

Did Willie Spence win American Idol?

Although Willie Spence was a favorite to win American Idol season 19, Spence ended up placing second in the season. On finale night, Spence was named the runner-up to Chayce Beckham, who won season 19.

Willie Spence American Idol audition

From the moment Willie Spence began his cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” for Katy Perry during his American Idol audition, he left the judges speechless! His performance earned a standing ovation from Lionel Richie as Luke Bryan gushed that he didn’t want the audition to end. You can check out Spence’s audition below.

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