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Iconic American Singer Debra Byrd Dies At 72



Debra Byrd

Debra Byrd, who was a member of ‘Lady Flash,’ and recorded with Barry Manilow and Bob Dylan, has reportedly died at the age of 72. Byrd was an iconic singer, having recorded with some of the most legendary artists in music history.

Byrd was also the head vocal coach of the hit television show American Idol, which for many years, was amongst the highest rated television show in the world. 36 million people tuned into the Season 5 finale, marking a peak for the show.

The show is still running, and incredibly popular, as it was the most talked about show in 2023. The fact that Idol has remained on television for all these years is a testament to the people behind the scenes who make it happen.

Byrd, being the head vocal instructor for the show, is surely somebody who deserves credit for the continued success of the show. Legacy reports,

Byrd began working with Manilow early in her career, when she was a teenager newly arrived in New York City after growing up in Cleveland. She impressed the star in auditions, and he hired her to back him on tour. It was the beginning of a musical partnership that lasted many years as she toured and recorded with him. For a period in the 1970s, she was a member of Manilow’s backing trio, Lady Flash, that had a hit with the Manilow co-written “Street Singin’.” As she gained fame in her singing career, she became known simply as “Byrd” to many who worked with her and followed her work. 

In 2001, Byrd joined the “American Idol” team in the hit singing competition’s first season, mentoring each of the contestants. She became a beloved part of the show as she guided the young singers toward fame. In addition to working as the show’s head vocal coach, Byrd also sang backing vocals for the contestants. She went on to work as a vocal coach on “The Voice” and “Canadian Idol.” 

Byrd also recorded and toured with Dylan on his “Hard to Handle” tour and on the song “Band of the Hand.” She was a vocal coach for the 2014 Oscars and sang in the choir backing Mary J. Blige in her Oscars telecast performance of “Mighty River” in 2018. She worked on Broadway and was an artist in residence at the Berklee College of Music. 


Rest in peace, legend!

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