‘American Idol’ Judges Mourn Willie Spence After Death At 23: ‘Sing With The Angels’

The 'Idol' judge commented on the show's tribute video to the contestant after he was tragically killed in a car crash in Tennessee.

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Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan  honored Willie Spenceafter the singer was tragically killed in a car crash on Tuesday, October 11. The American Idol judges took to social media to mourn the season 19 runner-up, after his sudden, unexpected passing at 23. For his tribute, Lionel posted a video of Willie performing on Idol. “Your light will always shine in this world,” he wrote. “We were so blessed to get a chance to see you shine. My thoughts and prayers are with Willie’s family. Rest well my friend.”

Meanwhile, Katy had a shorter, but equally touching message, to share. Although she didn’t post on her own page, she commented on the American Idol tribute to Willie on Instagram with her message. “I love you Willie… purest soul. Sing with the angels my darling,” she wrote.

Katy’s comment honoring Willie. (Instagram/Katy Perry)

Luke shared the show’s tribute to the runner-up on his Instagram Story and posted a message of his own along with it. “Willie really did light up every room he walked into,” he began his tribute. Luke continued and admired how moving Willie’s voice was to all who got to hear him and see his talent. “He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed,” he wrote. Besides the judges, Ryan Seacrest also mourned the singer’s passing in an Instagram Story. He shared the same video tribute and wrote a heartfelt message. “Everybody on and off set loved him,” he wrote. “You’ll be deeply missed.”

Luke’s tribute to Willie. (Instagram/Luke Bryan)

Willie died in a car accident on Tuesday. His passing was first reported by local news outlet Douglas Now.  “DouglasNow has learned that Douglas native and American Idol Season 19 runner-up Willie Spence, 23, has passed away due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Tennessee. We have no further details at this time. We extend our condolences to Willie’s family, friends, and fans. He was an extraordinary talent and a ray of light to millions across the world. He will be missed,” the outlet wrote in a Facebook post.

Willie was the runner-up in season 19 of Idol, coming in second place to winner Chayce BeckhamDuring his time on the show, Willie wow-ed audiences with impressive renditions of hits like “Set Fire To The Rain” by Adele and “Diamonds” by Rihanna as well as many more songs. One of the singer’s most notable performances was his duet with Katharine McPheewhere they sang Celine Dion’s “The Prayer.”

After Willie’s passing was first reported, Katharine took to her Instagram to share a moving tribute to him. She re-posted one of the clips of them speaking on the show and also wrote a moving tribute to the young singer. “I received very tragic news tonight. Sweet Willie Spence passed away in a car accident. Only 23 years old. Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised,” she wrote. “God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and know you.”

The ‘Idol’ judges all honored Willie after his death. (ABC/Gavin Bond/Robb Cohen/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Katharine also shared an Instagram clip of Willie singing the Christian song “You Are My Hiding Place” by Selah to her story. The video was posted just hours before his passing, and it showed off his powerful and moving voice. Many fans posted the clip following the news of his death.

Following his second-place victory on Idol, Willie spoke to HollywoodLife about how excited he was for the next steps in his career, and he spoke about how the show inspired him to work even harder. “Starting tomorrow, I am going to push harder and still be doing music,” he said. “Before American Idol, I didn’t believe in myself as much as I should have as an artist, and [the show] has definitely helped me with confidence and helped me believe in myself more. I feel like that is all I need for my career to take off. I just have to believe in myself a little more.”

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