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