Darius Danesh: Former Pop Idol contestant and Scottish singer Darius Danesh dies aged 41
Former Pop Idol contestant and theatre star Darius Campbell Danesh has been found dead in his US apartment at the age of 41, his family has announced.
The singer and actor was found in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 – although the cause of death remains unknown.
He was among the first generation of reality pop stars who was catapulted to fame, enjoying rapid-fire success and ridicule in equal measure.
A family statement said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Darius Campbell Danesh. Darius was found unresponsive in bed in his apartment room in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners’ office.
“The local police department have confirmed that there were no signs of intent or suspicious circumstances. The cause of his sudden death is unknown at this stage while medical examinations continue.
“We ask that you kindly respect our wishes for privacy at this time whilst we come to terms with the tragic loss of our son and brother.”
Even in his adolescence in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, it was clear Danesh was determined to pursue a life on the stage. He made his first professional appearance aged just 12 as part of a Scottish Opera production of The Trojans, and went on to perform at Covent Garden in Carmen.
He later studied English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.
But it was at the turn of the millennium the Scot became a household name among British television viewers, when ITV began broadcasting Popstars, a nascent version of the formatted talent shows that have become ubiquitous in the two decades since.
Danesh was regarded as an early favourite, but a unique cover version of Britney Spears’s pop hit, ‘Baby One More Time’, delivered in falsetto, put paid to his chances, and saw him widely mocked.
Undeterred, he returned later that autumn when ITV broadcast the inaugural series of Pop Idol. The contest was eventually won by Will Young, the Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter, with Danesh eliminated in the second-last show.
Yet it was clear even then the Scot was resilient, and determined to fulfil his goals the way he saw fit, no matter what.
Having turned down the offer of a record deal from Simon Cowell, he set about carving his own path in the music industry. In 2002, Danesh was signed to Mercury Records by Steve Lillywhite, who had worked with artists such as U2, Crowded House and Peter Gabriel.
That July, he released his debut single, Colourblind, a track he had co-written. It reached number one in the UK and stayed at the top of the charts for a fortnight.
Danesh went on to enjoy a career that would be successful by any popstar’s standards. He supported Shakira on tour and released five top ten singles in the UK, with his debut album, Dive In, going platinum.
While the hits dried up after Danesh’s second album, Live Twice, was released in 2004, he used his stage experience to segue to the West End.
His turns as Billy Flynn in Chicago and Sky Masterson in Michael Grandage’s Olivier Award-winning production of Guys and Dolls received favourable reviews, and Danesh continued to work in musical theatre, playing Nick Arnstein in Funny Girl, and taking on the lead role in From Here to Eternity the Musical.
In 2010, he also returned to television, this time competing in ITV’s Popstar to Operastar. This time, he won.
After moving to the US, Danesh married the actor, Natasha Henstridge, in 2011. The couple divorced seven years later.
In 2014, Danesh told The Scotsman that he was used to overcoming doubts, and always relied on the advice his father gave him as a youngster.
“Anything is possible if you want it enough and if you're willing to work hard enough at it and if you don't give up on it,” he explained. “It can seem overwhelming when you set any challenge and I've been told many times in my career that things have not been possible.”