(Rickey Smith with Paula Abdul in 2003. Photo courtesy of Us Weekly)
Rickey Smith, a contestant from American Idol Season 2, has tragically died in a multi-car highway accident. The talented eighth-place finalist was only 36 years old.
According to TMZ, another man was driving the wrong way Thursday night, just outside Oklahoma City on Interstate 240, when he slammed head-on into Smith’s automobile. The driver was hospitalized and has been booked for DUI.
Smith was a fan favorite in his Idol season, thanks to his “Hercules, Hercules!” catchphrase, soulful gospel-tinged vocals, and unflappably jolly demeanor – as evidenced by his famous Disco Night number, when he performed Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove” in a fluffy Afro wig. Eerily, though, one of his standout Idol performances, on Country Night, was a serious cover of Larry Gatlin’s “I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today.”
Various American Idol alumni, including Smith’s occasional duet partner Melinda Doolittle and his Season 2 castmates Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Kimberly Caldwell, took to social media Friday morning to express their grief.
Suffice it to say my heart is truly breaking today. 💔 Heaven’s choir has a new beautiful voice. I love you and will miss you, Rickey. 💔— Clay Aiken (@clayaiken)May 6, 2016
Smith is the second American Idol top 10 finalist to pass away. Season 7’s Michael Johns shockingly died in August 2014 of dilated cardiomyopathy.