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Judith Hill: Courage, Strength And Gargantuan Talent Produces Breathtaking Fourth Album…



London’s sold out Bush Hall on 8th June was the final stop for Judith’s 20-date 2024 European tour, where we caught up with her for the first time since October 2021. Back then, we we met up at her hotel and at the Jazz Cafe in Camden for an exclusive and revealing interview and photo shoot.

This time we get some pre-show exclusive backstage shots of Judith, and with her parents: renowned bassist Robert ‘Peewee’ Hill and keyboardist Michiko Hill, who play in her band.

As always, her live performance is utterly sublime; her [almost] other worldly voice, the guitar chops, her piano skills and the beautifully self-penned songs. She really is very special as an artist, and her latest album, “Letters From A Black Widow”, her fourth long player release, showcases all of  her talents writ large. Very large. It’s bloody stunning.

Judith Hill. Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

If you know of Judith’s CV and background, you will know of her close association with Prince and her breathtaking duet with Michael Jackson, “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.

You may have watched her tear-jerking rendition of “Heal The World” watched by billions around the world, when she sang lead on stage at Michael Jackson’s memorial, with his 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.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

What you may not be aware of is the heartbreak and emotional pain caused to Judith across the years by poisonous keyboard warriors and cowardly trolls, and some media, who have attacked her after the death of those two music legends, Prince and Michael Jackson.

Calling her “the black widow”, as though she somehow caused their deaths. A horrible thing to say and a weight Judith has carried with her ever since.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

So her current album tackles that stuff head on, with the in your face title, “Letters From A Black Widow” and the lyrical content of the songs. A giant middle finger up to these morons to draw a line under that mindless crap once and for all.

Yes, the Grammy-winning songwriter, instrumentalist, producer and multi-lingual (Japanese, French and Spanish) singer reclaims her strength on her deeply emotive new album, confronting the malign label that haunted her for years, coined by tabloids and keyboard warriors because she had collaborated with two of pop music’s biggest ever stars shortly before their deaths.

She struggled in the wake of undeserved hatred for years before recently finding the emotional capacity to confront, reflect and write about her experience.

“For years the Black Widow was such a dark presence in my life that it was too looming and intimidating to even talk about,” Judith reveals. A break from touring in 2020 provided her with the time and space for a momentous reckoning.

“Being forced to stop allowed me to reach a deeper place, to really marinate and figure out what’s at my core, what I really needed to talk about. I found I had the courage and strength to face all this – to be authentic, to dive into the whole experience and turn an ocean of darkness into expressive fire.”


Battle cry

The album is a formidable battle cry that dives into Judith’s  stories of discovery, resistance and redemption, bonded together with the soul, funk and blues foundations that have become her signature sound.

She provides much of the instrumentation herself, including self-taught electric guitar, but it is not a totally solo endeavour, as her band includes her parents, while she is also joined by John Staten (drums and percussion), Daniel Chae (strings) and a group of friends on backing vocals.

The album is the follow-up to the amazing ‘”Baby, I’m Hollywood!” which dropped in 2021, and which received a five star review in this magazine and was our album of the year.

Before we offer up some of the comments about this “Black Widow” nonsense that Judith exclusively revealed back in October 2021 to this magazine, let’s paint the picture in more detail about her career and achievements thus far…

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

Now very much a solo star in her own right, she paid her dues as a backing singer and for collaborations a sparkling array of legends such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Ringo Starr, George Benson and Rod Stewart as a vocalist extraordinaire.

Judith Glory Hill was born in Hollywood, California 40 years ago to a Japanese mother and African-American father, both musicians – Dad plays bass and Mum plays keyboards – in Judith’s band for touring and recording.

Judith graduated in 2007 with a degree in music composition, she then moved to France to with local superstar Michel Polnareff, before a return to the US at the request of Michael Jackson. He chose Judith to duet with him on the ill-fated “This Is It” tour. They rehearsed their spot together for months before the tour was scrapped when Michael died.

Judith performed as a featured singer on releases by George Benson and Rod Stewart and she toured with Stevie Wonder and Elton John as a backing singer. She toured as support to John Legend and Josh Groban too. She won a Grammy for her contribution to the brilliant film, “20 Feet from Stardom”, and several of her songs were used for the 2012 Spike Lee film, “Red Hook Summer”.

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

Despite all of her success and association with many musical legends, Judith was a contestant on the US version of The Voice in 2013, and was then contacted by Prince who wanted to co-produce her 2015 album, “Back In Time”, at his famous Paisley Park studios. He mentored Judith for two years.

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 sings on the track “Here Comes The End” by Gerard Way, which is on the soundtrack to the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy”. In 2021, she took part in the star-studded “A David Bowie Celebration: Just For One Day”, on which she performed “Lady Stardust” and “Under Pressure”.

I said in my review of her third album, “Baby, I’m Hollywood!” that it was “career defining”. I stand by that, but…dare I say, the new one, “Letters From A Black Widow” out via Regime Music Group, is even better and she stretches herself with the incendiary vocal performances and the songwriting.

When we met at her London hotel in 2021, and later that day at the Jazz Café, Camden for soundcheck before her sold out, her only UK show on a 25-date European tour, Judith admitted she is “frustrated” that most people only want to ask her about the late legends and not find out about Judith Hill.


I asked her 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.”

Judith Hill: Photo copyright: Music Republic Magazine

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.”

But Judith has actually been badly hurt and mentally scarred by those 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 fact, in February 2021, Judith was in emotional crisis and felt the need to post a personal video 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 cited 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 said: “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 advised Judith to simply ignore the nasty comments and threats, but she aids 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.”

AA – London June 2024

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 told me she so wanted herself and the world to heal and move on, but was 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.”

Judith back in London in June 2024 for the sole UK date on her European tour, told me she loves the city, but admitted 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 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.”

AA – Judith backstage with her mum and dad – London June 2024


AA – London June 2024

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.

AA – London June 2024



AA – London June 2024

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.

AA – London June 2024

“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.”

AA – London June 2024


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.

The best advice I could ever give Judith, for what it is worth, is this: “You were clearly put on this earth to use those God-given talents you have, to give pleasure to millions around the world with your beautiful music and that spine tingling voice of yours.

“Ignore the white noise from the brain dead few – illuminate the positive and eliminate the negative. There is a lot of love for you and for what you do. Come back to the UK soon.”


Photos: Steve Best [SB] / Alex Asprey [AA]

Photo top of page: Ginger Sole Photography

Words: Steve Best



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