Michael Johns, the Perth-born singer who charmed tens of millions of viewers on hit US TV show American Idol, has died. He was 35.
The charismatic performer is believed to have died from a blood clot in his ankle, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"It is with a heavy heart and inconsolable sadness that we confirm the passing of our friend Michael Johns," the administrator of his website tweeted on Saturday.
Johns made it in America with his soulful voice, cheeky charisma and Aussie larrikinism that left everyone in his wake smiling.
His sudden death has stunned the US entertainment industry and his many friends back home in Perth, where he grew up.
The 35-year-old artist enjoyed mainstream success in the United States after his electrifying appearances on hit US show American Idol in 2008.
His performances that season wooed the judges (even the demanding Simon Cowell was a fan) and had studio audiences in raptures, with Johns a consistent favourite with the 30 million Americans tuning in on TV.
His early exit from the show surprised judges and his growing band of fans but Johns still enjoyed a massive fanbase and future success in America, performing at celebrity and sporting events, making guest TV appearances and releasing an album Hold Back My Heart in 2009.
Naturally gifted at sports and music, the teenage Johns left the family home in Perth in 1997 to chase his dreams in America, earning a tennis college scholarship before finding success as a singer, his greatest passion.
He eventually settled and married Los Angeles native Stacey Vuduris, with his family asking for privacy in a statement released on Saturday.
"Our family is devastated by the passing of our beloved Michael, a wonderful husband, son, brother, uncle and friend," the statement read.
"We appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from all corners of the globe.
"Please keep Michael in your thoughts and respect our need to grieve privately in this difficult time."
TMZ.com reported Johns twisted his ankle in LA last week and received medical treatment after enduring pain and swelling from his ankle up to his leg. He was cleared to return home but paramedics found him unresponsive at a friend's apartment the following day. TMZ said he died from a blood clot.
Johns signed with Madonna's Maverick label in 2002 before his introduction to prime-time America in 2008, with fans embracing his soulful and show-stopping performances on Idol, where he eventually finished eighth.
Cowell, the Idol judge who could destroy the souls of young singers with his harsh critiques, had only praise for Johns when he auditioned for the show aged 28 - the final year he was eligible.
"I just heard the very sad news that Michael Johns has passed away. A truly great guy. Rest in peace Michael," Cowell tweeted.
Friends and fans have shared their condolences on social media, all expressing shock at the entertainer's sudden death.
I just heard the very sad news that Michael Johns has passed away. A truly great guy. Rest in peace Michael.
— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) August 3, 2014
- Sydney Morning Herald