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Michael Johns, the rock 'n' soul singer and Australian heartthrob who was a fan favorite on Season 7 of Fox's American Idol, has died.

The Hollywood Reporter and other news outlets say Johns, 35, died Friday from a blood clot in his ankle.

"Our family is devastated by the passing of our beloved Michael, a wonderful husband, son, brother, uncle and friend," the singer's family said in a statement Saturday. "We appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from all corners of the globe. Please keep Michael in your thoughts and respect our need to grieve privately in this difficult time."

Idol, Fox and two series producers, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, hailed Johns as "an incredible talent."

"We are deeply saddened by the news of his passing," their statement said. "He was a part of our American Idol family and he will be truly missed."

Longtime judge Simon Cowell, who left Idol in 2010, tweeted: "I just heard the very sad news that Michael Johns has passed away. A truly great guy. Rest in peace Michael."

"A consistently kind guy with talent for days," tweeted Idol host Ryan Seacrest. "We'll miss you."

Johns is the first Idol finalist to die since the Fox show launched in 2002.

In 2008, he finished eighth on the singing competition in a shocking elimination that was cited by producers as one of the reasons Idol introduced the "judges' save" the following season.

Former Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said he learned of Johns' death while attending a performance of the musical Hair at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday. "I ... kept imagining hearing him sing all the songs. I'm very upset by" the news, he said in an e-mail.

Lythgoe, who is an executive producer and judge on So You Think You Can Dance, said he had recently worked with Johns on a CBS pilot and that the singer had performed at charity events he organized. Lythgoe said his sons, Simon and Kris, were friends with Johns.

"His acoustic version of the Bee Gees' To Love Somebody was very special, but I will always remember him singing The Beatles' You Never Give Me Your Money/Golden Slumbers. One of his favorite songs," Lythgoe said. "He was a great talent and dear friend. My boys and I were devastated to hear the news."

Johns welcomed the Idol spotlight. In a backstage interview with USA TODAY at the 2008 Idols Live tour in Rosemont, Ill., he said: "I will say, being a celebrity doesn't suck. ... I don't know how long I'll be a celebrity. Might as well enjoy."

Before and after the show, he spent hours signing autographs for fans lined up outside the venue. "I'm tired, sure," Johns told USA TODAY. "But you get energy from these people. Just look at them."

Johns arrived in the U.S. with a college tennis scholarship and started his career in Atlanta with the band Film. He was one of the show's more experienced contestants, having signed a record contract in 2002 with Madonna's Maverick Records imprint while fronting the rock band The Rising. He auditioned for Idol in 2007 as Michael Lee (adopting the name "Johns" for the competition, a reference to both his middle name, John, and his stepfather) when he was 28, the age cutoff for Idol eligibility.

He released his post-Idol album Hold Back My Heart in 2009 and followed that with an EP, Love & Sex, in 2012.

He is survived by his wife, Stacey Vuduris, a Los Angeles interior designer.

Contributing: Bill Keveney and Brian Mansfield

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