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Judith Hill: Michael Jackson And Prince Have Left Me Heartbroken…

Judith Hill. Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine


Judith Hill’s CV reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the world’s biggest music stars – including Michael Jackson and Prince.

But that starry association comes at a heavy cost – as she revealed to Steve Best in an exclusive face-to-face sit down in London.




Career-defining. An over-used and often unwarranted accolade in the music media. But US singer and songwriter Judith Hill truly deserves that label for her current album, “Baby, I’m Hollywood!”.

Back in June this year, 2021, Music Republic Magazine raved about Judith’s third solo studio album, with a deserved five-star review: “One of the finest vocal albums for many a decade, it’s a perfect blend of soul and neo-soul, r&b, jazz, funk and more. 57 minutes and 12 seconds of sheer ‘Wow’ moments. Just amazing….”

In fact, if you hear Judith sing on stage or on any of her recordings, in her own right or in collaboration with the various stars she has sung with, every time she opens her mouth and lungs, it is pretty much career-defining.

Her voice is a palpable gift. The likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Ringo Starr, John Legend and Josh Groban thought so too when she collaborated with them.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

Judith spent two years touring France with legendary French artist, Michel Polnareff, including singing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day in 2007, to one million people.


Judith shares a Grammy for her part in the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom”, a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of several A-List, first-call background singers.

Her own music has featured in several movies and TV shows, while she also covered ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins for the hit Amazon prime drama “Little Fires Everywhere” starring Reese Witherspoon.

She partnered with Spike Lee to record eleven songs for his film “Red Hook Summer” and recorded “Too Young” with George Benson on the album “Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole”.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

Judith was mentored by her close friend Prince for two years, and he co-produced her 2015 album “Back In Time” at his Paisley Park studio in Minneapolis.

She sang the gorgeous show-stopping duet, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” with Michael Jackson in 2009 on the film, “This Is It”, as part of the rehearsals for the planned series of shows at London’s 02 Arena, which were scrapped after the legendary King Of Pop’s sudden death in June that same year at the age of 50.

Michael Jackson memorial performance

She was watched by billions around the world, when she sang lead on “Heal The World”, on stage at Michael Jackson’s memorial, with MJ’s silver coffin a few feet from her, and surrounded by the Jackson family and such superstars as Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones and Usher.

But there really is a heck of a lot more to Judith Glory Hill – singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, producer and multi-lingual (Japanese, French and Spanish) – the 37-year-old solo artist, than her association with the two late and great music icons ‘Jacko’ and Prince.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

When we meet at her London hotel, and later that day at the Jazz Café, Camden for soundcheck before her sold out, only UK show on a 25-date European tour, Judith admits she is “frustrated” that most people only want to ask her about the late legends and not find out about Judith Hill.

So how strongly would she go: Frustrated, irritated, annoyed, fed up with it? “Well, very strong, but it depends on the context, because I feel it’s a very complicated issue. There’s a lot of people who are incredibly lovely, who just love the music of both the icons (MJ and Prince) and feel connected to me because of that.

“I feel deeply honoured for us to share in each other’s lives. You know, fans come from Michael Jackson (sic) to my shows, and Prince fans, and I feel incredibly grateful, so the frustration is definitely not related to any of that. There’s so much love.

“But it comes more as to the complexities as to how my name got mixed up in the rumours and the things like that. Also just feeling like my story was almost taken from me in a way, where my name was no longer my name; my name was in connection with someone else.

“So for me to have my own identity, and for me to say, ok, I’m Judith Hill and I like vanilla ice cream, and that be the end of the story…., but it was always, yeah, but we want to know about this, we want to know more about that. It became difficult in that sense to manoeuvre through all of that.”

Mentally scarred by the rumours and hate…

So, the message is, there’s far more to Judith Hill the artist, the singer, the songwriter and the person than Michael Jackson or Prince, or whoever you have worked with, because you are a solo artist in your own right? “Yes, right.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

But Judith has actually been badly hurt and mentally scarred by nasty conspiracy theories, rumours, blatant lies and scurrilous on-line stories linking her to the sudden deaths of her friend and mentor Prince, and to her duet partner, Michael Jackson.

In February 2021, Judith was in emotional crisis and felt the need to post a personal message to her fans, to try to halt the unfounded rumours and stories once and for all.

Revealing she had suffered from mental health issues and undergone five years of therapy due to the pressure – and received abuse and death threats – around the conspiracy stories. In particular, she cites one article on a US showbiz gossip website that darkly links her with the death of both legends.


In her heart wrenching video appeal, she says: “I have worn that article like a disease. It has affected my mental health. It keeps me up every night, it has caused me to not trust the world, to stay away – it has caused a rift between me and you and me and the outside world, and I want to move on.

“Everybody loves a good conspiracy. All it takes is for somebody like {name of the website deliberately left out here] to plant a seed, to plant an idea and the whole world will believe it….An article like that can ruin lives.”

Friends and family have advised Judith to simply ignore the nasty comments and threats, but she says in her appeal: “They do exist, they do hurt. I’m a real human being and I have a real heart and it does break. I miss Prince every day. You have no idea.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

As for attacks on her from Jackson fans, she says: “I didn’t know Michael, aside from being this awestruck background singer who came to rehearsals a few times. But I have to answer for him every day. For the last 12 years, I have to answer for him every day. That’s a weight.”

She wants herself and the world to heal and move on. But she reveals she is still dealing with a “mountain of pain”. “To scale this mountain is too big for me. I’m not strong enough to make this go away.

“If you can hold me accountable that I’m coming into a new chapter, that I’m no longer the Black Widow, that I’m no longer the fallback girl that some can blame or accuse. If we can do that for me, so that I don’t internalize it anymore…than this is a first step.”

So, leave the poor woman alone and instead of attacking her for absolutely nothing, marvel at her incredible voice, her guitar and piano skills, her fantastic current album and world class song writing chops – and if you get the chance, her incendiary concert performance.

Set list for Jazz Cafe gig….

Judith plays guitar and piano in her shows and sings all vocals. Backed by her top-flight band of her African-American dad Robert Hill on bass, Japanese mum Michiko Hill on keyboards/B3 organ and drummer Chaun Dupre’ Horton.

When we meet at her London hotel, and later that day at the Jazz Café, Camden for soundcheck before her sold out, only UK show on a 25-date European tour, Judith admits she is “frustrated” that most people only want to ask her about the late legends and not find out about Judith Hill.
Judith’s mother Michiko Hill – monster keyboard player…

Not kidding; it really is a breath-taking experience to see/hear Judith and her band in concert. She tore the roof off of The Jazz Cafe, and that was in the afternoon soundcheck AND the gig! Stunning.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

Judith loves London – last here in 2019 for a show – but admits she has “bitter-sweet memories” in light of the “This Is It” shows at the 02 Arena being cancelled after Michael Jackson’s death.

“It’s bitter-sweet because it feels like there was definitely a loss from the 02 experience, but I still feel passionate about it, as I feel it is a music city and I am actually honoured whenever I do come here and do my music and perform. I am fond of the city, but it does have a little bit of a melancholy feeling about it.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

Judith speaking about Michael Jackson’s memorial and her stunning lead vocal front of stage on “Heal The World”: “It was so sombre, everyone was still in shock. It was on the same stage as the ‘This Is It’ rehearsals, so it was a very surreal moment of being on the same stage two weeks later.

“It was like, is this really happening? It became very spiritual in the sense pf the song, ‘Heal The World’; the lyrics of that song felt very transcended at that moment.

“There was the kids’ choir, so it became a very spiritual experience and I think that sort of trumps the nerves, just because it was such a powerful moment where you were just like kind of out of body – a very emotional moment.”

“This Is It” duet with MJ…

The “This Is It” rehearsals were held in various venues in the US, but none in the UK. Judith was one of the backing singers chosen for the shows, but through several recommendations, she was also chosen to sing the duet with Michael, who had not heard her sing live before their first rehearsal together – which we see on the “This Is It” film.

“The music director and a couple of musicians recommended me when they were throwing names in the pot. They said, oh he’s (MJ) on your My Space page checking out your stuff. Then I went to the audition singing a couple of songs and two weeks later was told I got the gig.

So, was it scary to sing with Michael for the first time? “Yes, it was. But Michael was very kind and sweet when he was coming into rehearsals. We exchanged a few words, mainly, ‘ok, I’ll do this, you do that’, instructions about the show.”

Judith treasures the “little love bracelet” that the whole band received from Michael, as a thank you. She has a bunch of mementoes from her work and friendship with Prince. She first met him in the early part of 2014, after he called her direct to offer to produce her album. He died on the 21st April 2016 at the age of 57. Michael Jackson died on the 25th June 2009. He was 50.

Prince the mentor…

Prince gave Judith lots of advice and tips for her career. “I was very close to him, and he was like a mentor. Prince was definitely my biggest teacher, he dropped so many gems of wisdom constantly. One that stands out is; I remember one show that I did, and I was kind of bummed because I didn’t think it was my greatest.

“I remember him saying to me, it’s not about if they thought it was great, it’s about if you thought it was great. Like, did you like the show? I was asking him what he thought, and he said, it is not about what I think, did you like the show?

“I asked him, well, don’t you ever have a bad show, and he said, no. I never have a bad show. Just the idea of loving what you do so much and loving it, kind of takes your mind out of the idea, what’s right or wrong or I’ve failed or didn’t fail.

“It becomes this transcendent idea of I’m on stage, this is what I love, this is the reason why I’m doing it. I think that’s one of the bigger take-aways, when he asked me that.

“Another one that he would say, is that the show is like a game of tennis, where when you hit the ball and you might miss, but if you are too busy thinking about how you missed that, you are gonna (sic) miss the next one. So, you have to stay in the moment, and so every moment on stage is like a game of tennis.”

Bill Withers – friend and adviser…

Bill Withers also gave Judith some really good advice. “…Just taking the bull by its horns. He kind of shook me up and said, you have to know you’re great. Gave me a nice little pep talk, which I will always remember.”

Judith first met Bill when she was part of a Bill Withers tribute concert. They then became friends, and he wanted her to work on some music.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

So, what advice would the now experienced Judith Hill give to the young Judith when she was just starting out on her career back in the day?

“I would tell her to jump right in to into jam sessions and the instruments and songs. Get writing songs and don’t waste your time and years on A&Rs and producers that want to steer you in different ways.

“If I’d have known that when I was young, I think I would have been a lot better off, but everything has a time and place. But I remember in my younger years, I was in and out of studios with these producers and major labels who just want that big hit.

“I am so glad that I separated myself from that mentality and I am just making lots of music and music that I love.

“Not chasing after some sort of idea, you know. Everyone had an idea of who I would be similar to, but they were more about, oh what’s the next hit song. I think that’s changed now since the world is a different place than it was even seven years ago.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

Judith was in an L.A. church choir when she was about seven and recalls the first pivotal moment which triggered her desire to become a singer. “The choir did this version of ‘Rhythm Nation’ (Janet Jackson) and they wanted me to be Janet.

“So, I went up there and I remember that being my first experience in front of a big audience. I was very terrified until I got on stage, and I was kind of shocked at how much I liked it.

Awkward, shy kid…

So, what did the applause feel like? “Like I didn’t deserve it, because I was such an awkward, shy kid, I didn’t really know how to express myself outside of the stage. So, for them to cheer and see me, it felt very awkward for a kid who always remained hidden.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine
Soundcheck shot…

A couple of years later when she was nine, Judith’s mind was blown when she heard a certain singer in a certain film, and that rubber stamped Judith’s ambition to make music her career.

“Hearing Lauryn Hill singing ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’ from Sister Act II is the moment for me as a little girl. She blew me away. I remember that being a big moment for me.”

Judith, Robert, Michiko and Chaun on stage at The Jazz Cafe in soundcheck mode…

Is Judith the person different to the persona on stage and on recordings? “Yeah, I think that there might be a little bit of a difference in the sense that I feel like the shy awkward kid off stage, so people often think you are so different on stage. I still feel like that shy kid off stage and then once I am on stage it feels like home.”

Imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome? “Ahh, maybe a little bit. I think so, but I’m working towards reconciling the two, so that I can be the same person off stage. I think that I am working on allowing that person to exist everywhere. Part of it is to not be afraid of the show and the power in life itself.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

As a backing singer, was she always yearning to be up front and in the spotlight? “I always knew to be front-and-centre was what I’d do. The backing singing was an exciting opportunity for me to see how others do it, and to really get inspired by things around me. But it never felt like the final destination; it felt like a really amazing, inspiring moment.”

Asked to sum herself up in a few words, Judith says: “I long to use music to help people feel something beyond themselves and connect to a higher truth and the invisible world. It is all about spirituality. The thing we all know exists is sometimes hard to put into words, but music does do that.”

Judith cites the title track as perhaps her favourite cut on the album “I’m Hollywood, Baby!” (which is on the Regime Music Group label), and she explains why. “It meant a lot to me, as in the words being misunderstood. Where Hollywood, in its sense, is kind of a pretentious word and seems a bit shallow and superficial.

“It’s the Boulevard of broken dreams, lots of things going on there that people don’t realise…the depth, the history and the stability of that place.

“It really felt like a metaphor for me, where I felt misunderstood. People looking from the outside: ‘Oh, she sang with Michael and Prince’, without knowing me at all or really caring to know the depth of my soul and what I am about.

“I wanted to personify Hollywood as a woman who’s a survivor. I’ve been through so many peaks and valleys in my career to date, and the show must go on. The message is being persistent, bringing all of your pain and your story to the stage.

“‘Baby, I’m Hollywood!’ is about acceptance. Coming to terms with my story and unapologetically stepping into who I am. I want to bring people inside my soul and help them see past the make-up, stage lights, rumours and history….to step out of the shadows of fear and into the light of vulnerability.”

The Voice USA

For someone of Judith’s experience, profile and mega-talents, it was a surprise to see her as a contestant on season four of The Voice USA in 2013. She was a shoo-in for the final and to win it, but the nation was shocked when was voted off.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine
Soundcheck shot…

Did she regret it? Was it a bit of a comedown after the heady heights of her career? “I didn’t see it as a comedown, I saw it as a fun opportunity for people to hear me on my own, outside of singing for others.

“It really was the suggestion of my management. I wasn’t really looking to go on the show, but I was persuaded to go on and once I did, I found it kind of a fun experience. I made a lot of friends.

“It ended up being a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be. It was a TV show, and they make it all very dramatic, but there was a lot of opportunities that came after it, so it didn’t really feel like a bad thing.”

Judith feels the experience taught her something about herself? “Yeah, definitely. I think the biggest thing that The Voice taught me is who I am to the world, particularly America.

“It’s a fast track to commercialism in a very dumbed-down, cookie cutter version, so everything you say and do either resonates or it doesn’t in a very obvious way.

“So, for me, it was very fascinating to realise I was sort of a mixed bag to people; I was not a perfect stereotype or perfect representation of something they were familiar with.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

She is working on a new album for 2022 release, and a “concert theatre piece” with a full band, which will premiere next year.

  • Judith’s European tour rolls on into Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Poland and final date on 11th November back in Spain, before shows back in the US.




Exclusive Interview & Exclusive Photos: Steve Best – Copyright 2021 Music Republic Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


* Special thanks to Judith, Robert, Michiko, Chaun, Gary (publicist), Ivan (tour manager), Jazz Cafe Camden and to Richard (superb bespoke stage lighting for soundcheck photos). *




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