Rickey Smith Dead:’American Idol’ Season 2 Finalist, Dies at 36

Rickey Smith, a contestant on season 2 of American Idol, was killed in a car crash on Thursday, May 5. He was 36.

According to TMZ, Smith was on the highway outside of Oklahoma City when another driver reportedly slammed into his car head-on. Police told TMZ that the other driver was booked for DUI.

Rickey Smith in 2003.
Rickey Smith in 2003. Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Smith was one of the final eight competitors in 2003. He was well-known for his performance of "What the World Now Needs Is Love," and was compared to R&B great Brian McKnight during his stint on the Fox series. Ruben Studdard ultimately won that season after beating out Clay Aiken. 

Paula Abdul and Rickey Smith during The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Activities Committee Presents
Paula Abdul and Rickey Smith during The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Activities Committee Presents "American Idol Live" – Arrivals at ATAS' Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, CA, United States. Chris Polk/FilmMagic

In a 2008 interview with USA Today, Smith spoke about his life after Idol. At the time, the reality TV alum was working at a sports bar in Oklahoma City, where he was tasked with singing the birthday song to restaurant patrons.

"I don't want to sing Happy Birthday all tenderly to a grown man," Smith told the paper. "It's as embarrassing to him as it is to me."

After his season of Idol ended, Smith remained in L.A. for a few years in hopes to launch a music career. "I almost had an album," he told USA Today, "I had some good people around me … I wasn't ready to accept the fact that I had to come back and give up music. I've made peace with it, but it's still frustrating."

Despite giving up on his dreams, Smith was a star to his neighbors in his native Oklahoma. "Anywhere I go," Smith told the paper, "they tell me I'm still a celebrity. I appreciate that."

Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Want stories like these delivered straight to your phone? Download the Us Weekly iPhone app now!