When the all-star Michael Jackson memorial ceremony in Los Angeles came to an end today, millions of fans watching the event became curious about the woman who sang lead on Jackson’s “Heal the World.” The mystery singer was Judith Hill, a Pasadena, California-based vocalist who was recruited to be one of the backup singers for Jackson’s This Is It! concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Hill wowed the crowd and the millions watching around the world with her rendition of the Dangerous song, but her identity had most viewers baffled — the “We Are the World” and “Heal the World” performers weren’t identified in the handouts at the Staples Center or on any other documents distributed to the press.
According to the bio on Hill’s official Website, “Judith was born in Los Angeles and raised in a family of musicians. Her mother is an immigrant from Japan who met her father in a funk band in the 1970s.” Hill is described as discovering her love of music at an early age while growing up in a deeply religious household, which led her to attend the Christian university Biola University in Southern California. Hill’s bio says the singer next headed to France after graduation to perform with French singer Michel Polnareff.
“France is where I collected my stories,” Hill writes. “It was everything from finding true love, to sitting on the curb with gypsies, to running away from thugs (don’t ask), to just taking in the beauty of such an amazing country. I came back rich.” From there, Hill returned to the States, begin work on her own album (three songs are currently streaming on Hill’s MySpace page) and ultimately became a crew member on what’s described as the biggest production in concert history, Michael Jackson’s This Is It! concerts.
On June 8th, Hill announced on her official Website that she would be joining the cast of Jackson’s run at London’s O2 Arena. “Judith will be touring with Michael Jackson in a few weeks. You can catch her on stage in London at the 02 Arena,” reads a post. Sadly, the This Is It! run was canceled, but Hill and her fellow crew members played an important role in today’s memorial service, and Hill will likely feature in the tribute concert AEG Live is reportedly planning using the This Is It! production. Rolling Stone has reached out to Hill for comment, but she has not yet responded to our request for an interview. Go inside the Jackson memorial in our full report from the scene.
Wondering who the youngster who sang “Who’s Lovin’ You” at the Jackson memorial was? See Who Is Michael Jackson Memorial Performer Shaheen Jafargholi?
Plus, here’s footage of Hill performing “One Love Forever” at Santa Monica’s the Temple Bar from 2008:
For Rolling Stone‘s definitive look back at Jackson’s life and legacy, pick up our special commemorative issue, available now.