'American Idol' alums pay tribute to Mandisa with performance of 'Shackles': 'Heaven's gain'

'American Idol' stars Danny Gokey, Melinda Doolittle and Colton Dixon performed 'Shackles (Praise You)' by duo Mary Mary as a tribute to Mandisa.
"American Idol" stars Danny Gokey, Melinda Doolittle and Colton Dixon performed "Shackles (Praise You)" by duo Mary Mary as a tribute to Mandisa. | Screenshot/YouTube

"American Idol" stars Danny Gokey, Melinda Doolittle and Colton Dixon performed "Shackles (Praise You)" by duo Mary Mary as a tribute to Mandisa two weeks after her death and reflected on her tremendous impact and legacy.

On Monday night's episode of "American Idol," the ABC singing competition series held a special tribute to 2006 alum, who died at her home in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 18. She was 47.

"Mandisa was an adored icon on American Idol and in the music industry," the show said in a statement. "She had become a platinum-selling artist and had won several Grammys for her music. Her passing has left everyone on the show heartbroken, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family."

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Gokey, Doolittle and Dixon performed "Shackles," the first song Mandisa performed when she hit the "Idol" stage for the first time in 2006.

"This is how you celebrate Mandisa," host Ryan Seacrest said following the performance. 

"I've known [Mandisa] for over 20 years," Doolittle shared. "We started off playing background and sessions together, and she got on 'Idol,' and I cheered for her. I came the next season, and she cheered for me."

Gokey, who, like Mandisa, entered the gospel music industry after his time on "American Idol," said the late singer was a true "cheerleader" of other people's music. She was someone he leaned on when he was dropped by his label — and subsequently picked up by another — several years earlier, he said. 

"She had the biggest voice for me, and she was making a way for me and my biggest cheerleader. It just felt amazing. And she always was that person," he said. 

Dixon, also a Christian music artist, told Seacrest that "Shackles" summed up Mandisa's life.

"I think she came in praising, and she left praising," he said. "We are going to miss her, but our loss is Heaven's gain."

"Shackles" includes the lines "In the corners of mind/ I just can't seem to find a reason to believe/ That I can break free/ Cause you see I have been down for so long/ Feel like the hope is gone/ But as I lift my hands, I understand/ That I should praise you through my circumstance."

The Franklin Police Department previously revealed the 47-year-old popstar was found dead in her Beamon Drive home on April 18, adding that there was no indication her death was the result of suspicious or criminal activity. 

Speaking at her celebration of life service over the weekend, Mandisa's father, John Hundley, announced the official cause of death would not be released for a couple of weeks. 

"But here's what I think happened," he said. "Mandisa fell down in her bedroom. They found her on the floor. If you look from the rear of her bed, she was laying on the left side. It's clear that's where she was laying, there was a couple of big rugs there and some clothes. On the right side of the bed, front was this nightstand. I found her phone on the right side of the bed. There was no way for Mandisa to get around the bed, go out there and get a phone to call for help."

Mandisa finished in the "American Idol" top nine before launching her music career. She released her first album, "True Beauty," in July 2007 and won Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for "Overcomer" at the 56th Grammy Awards in 2014.

Dixon recently spoke to The Christian Post about why so many "Idol" alums — including Mandisa, Gokey, Lauren Daigle and others — entered the Christian music industry after appearing on the show.

"Me, Mandisa, Danny, we all do Christian music," he said at the time. "'American Idol' was all the churchgoers' guilty pleasure to watch as a family. Our family grew up going to church, and when 'Idol' was on, it was the thing we did. … God's real, and I think He becomes real to everyone at some point, and in their own life and in their own walk and in their own time. It's their choice, whether or not they choose to follow after God's heart, but He's just been really real to me since I was young."

Mandisa's unexpected death sent shockwaves through the Christian music industry and her fans. 

Artist TobyMac collaborated on several songs with Mandisa and remembered her as an "authentic" Christian who wasn't afraid to share her battles with a watching world. 

"She was honest and authentic, but I always left her side feeling better," he said. "She watched every act, every night on every tour, singing along with a smile that made you feel alive. From 'Lose My Soul' to 'Bleed the Same' to 'Good Mornin' I was honored not only to collaborate with her but to call her friend. She was honest about her struggles and viewed her breakthroughs as an opportunity to let others know that they can experience victories just like her. She saw us as a family. God's family. In all our diversity. All flawed. And all in need of the love of a Good Father, a Heavenly Father."

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