On Wednesday, the music community was rattled and saddened by the news of the death of 41-year-old hip-hop legend Nate Dogg. Later that evening, "American Idol" contestant Jacob Lusk delivered a passionate, show-closing performance of Heart's "Alone." These two events may seem to have precious little in common. But...there is a connection.
There actually might have been a special, unexpected reason why Jacob was so emotional on "Idol" this week. According to TMZ, Jacob was a member of Nate Dogg's gospel group InNate Praise back in 2007, and the two of them formed a friendship over the ensuing years as the Compton-bred Jacob (whose gospel stylings have drawn almost fervently religious praise from the "Idol" judges this season) performed at various churches across Los Angeles.
Check out a couple videos of Jacob singing with InNate Praise a few years ago, in happier times:
While Jacob didn't speak about Nate's tragic passing on Wednesday's "Idol" telecast, he did take to his Twitter page to express his sorrow. Jacob tweeted: "Nate Dogg gone? Can't be true....Im gonna miss him telling me to CALM DOWN!!!! or saying HERE HE GO....GREAT MAN..I knew him LOVE YOU MAN!"
It remains to be seen if Jacob will honor his late mentor in some more overt way on "American Idol" (a cover of "Regulate," possibly? please?), but I am sure Nate Dogg was proudly smiling down on Jacob Wednesday, and will watch over him throughout the season. Even in the grainy amateur video below, shot in Nate's North Hollywood studio back in 2007, it's clear that Nate was a good friend and inspiration to the future Idol.