Ed Sheeran’s Best Friend Jamal Edwards Redefined the U.K. Music Industry

Haylee Thorson - Author

May 2 2023, Published 2:41 p.m. ET

Jamal Edwards in a black leather jacket at Free The Children's We Day on March 7, 2014
Source: Getty Images

After a decade in the making, Ed Sheeran’s “Subtract” album is finally ready to grace the public. However, the inspiration behind the English singer-songwriter’s latest project is incredibly melancholy.

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From his wife’s health scare to alcoholism and the unexpected passing of his best friend Jamal Edwards, Grammy award-winning artist Ed Sheeran has had to overcome obstacle after obstacle in recent years.

However, making music helped him work through the pain. Ed even dedicated his new single “Eyes Closed” to his late pal Jamal.

Jamal Edwards in a black jacket and shirt at The BRIT Awards in 2019
Source: Getty Images
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Who was Ed Sheeran’s best friend, Jamal Edwards?

The English entrepreneur was born on Aug. 24, 1990, in Luton, England. Growing up, music played a significant role in Jamal’s life, with his mother, Brenda Edwards, competing on The X Factor and proceeding to work as a panelist on Loose Women.

Following in his mother’s footsteps, Jamal studied music at Acton High School alongside ICT. He then received his BTEC diploma from West London’s Ealing Green College.

However, Jamal was known for his entrepreneurial spirit. At age 16, the English teenager launched an acclaimed online platform that forever changed his life — and many others. In 2006, Jamal created SBTV, an online platform that showcased up-and-coming English talent.

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The late entrepreneur’s company is credited with kickstarting the careers of his friend Ed, Stormzy, Rita Ora, Jessie J, Emeli Sandé, and more.

Jamal became known for spearheading online interviews in the U.K. with renowned talents such as Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Wiz Khalifa.

Jamal was also an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust charity organization and was awarded an MBE for his contributions to the music industry in 2015.

What was Jamal Edwards’s cause of death?

On Feb. 20, 2022, Jamal tragically passed away at age 31. The West London coroner’s court stated that his cause of death was drug-related after the music entrepreneur went into cardiac arrest after drinking alcohol and using cocaine simultaneously.

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“After drinking some alcohol with a friend, his behavior changed and became erratic and he appeared paranoid, before he collapsed and became unconscious,” the coroner reported, per The Guardian. “Attempts at resuscitation failed and life was declared extinct at 10.36.”

Then, in June 2022, Jamal’s mother, Brenda, released a statement about her son’s cause of death. “I have sadly learned that the cause of Jamal’s devastating passing was due to cardiac arrhythmia,” the X Factor alum said.

“[This was] caused by having taken recreational drugs and I wanted to address this myself to everyone who loved, admired, and respected my son.”

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Ed Sheeran opened up about how Jamal’s death affected his life.

Ed got candid about how Jamal’s passing impacted him during a recent interview with Rolling Stone. “I would never, ever, ever touch anything again, because that’s how Jamal died,” the English singer-songwriter said of illicit substances. “And that’s just disrespectful to his memory to even, like, go near.”

More than a year after Jamal’s death, the “Perfect” singer released “Eyes Closed,” a single dedicated to his late friend.

“This song is about losing someone, feeling like every time you go out and you expect to just bump into them, and everything just reminds you of them and things you did together,” Ed wrote on Instagram.

“Blue was Jamal’s colour, but now is all I feel. And I guess music helps heal, so I’m dancing with my eyes closed to try to get through it.”

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