It is with sadness and anguish that I am writing a tribute in the wake of the sudden and tragic death of a man who meant so much to me, Michael Johns. I can’t even begin to think about what his wife, family, and friends are feeling right now. They have my deepest condolences, love, and prayers.
Michael was a gorgeous person. It went beyond his handsome looks – it was also in his killer smile, his charming personality, his zesty spirit, his kind heart, and his warm soul. For me, it was his sensational singing voice that won me over, first and foremost.
“I’ll always remember you as the big brother who made interviews less scary. The biggest joker, hands down. And one of the most insanely talented vocalists.” – Ramiele Malubay
He sang his way into my life with a song. I had just started watching Season 7 of American Idol and was captivated by his beautiful rendition of my favourite Beatles tune, “Across the Universe”. During that moment, I knew I was experiencing the start of something really good. And boy, was I right in that assertion or what?
He quickly became my favourite Idol contestant during that season, delivering one amazing performance after another every week – “Bohemian Rhapsody“, “Light My Fire“, “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right“, “We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions“, “Dream On“… I could go on. When he was the recipient of the dreaded reality show competition ’shock elimination’, I was fuming for a week and swore to never watch the show again. But I didn’t ending up sticking to that vow, and I’m glad, because then I wouldn’t have fallen for David Cook, David Archuleta, Brooke White, Carly Smithson, Syesha Mercado, Jason Castro, Ramiele Malubay, Kristy Lee Cook, and Chikezie – the Top 10 of the 7th (and best) season, and the ones who got me addicted to Idol to this very day. I adored this group of singers enough to see them on tour during the Summer of 2008, having a ton of unforgettable fun and making a lot of everlasting friendships along the way.
“If someone asked me who my favorite male voice was it’d be Michael johns… He was stupidly talented, handsome, charismatic, funny and quite a complicated character.” – Brooke White
To date, Michael remains one of my favourite musicians. I have this theory that if Jim Morrison and Otis Redding had conspired to create a musical lovechild, Michael Johns would be the result. He is a terrific singer/songwriter – he released a debut album entitled Hold Back My Heart (his signature rock and soul sound is stamped all over the record – “Heart On My Sleeve” is a must-listen) and also engaged in several collaborations with fellow artists, most notably Brooke White with their stunning duet, “Life Is Okay“.
Michael was also a talented performer whose commanding presence suited both the big and small stages - his voice can resonate powerfully throughout a stadium and tenderly serenade you in an intimate room. I am really blessed to have had the opportunity to see Michael sing live in both settings and to meet him not once, but twice. What really struck me about Michael was how immensely gracious he was towards all of his supporters. Case in point - how often will a musician read a young fan’s overly enthusiastic (and embarrassing) fanmail sent over on MySpace expressing her adoration for him and his music and ending with a song request for the concert she will be attending? Yes, I did that, and yes, the man actually acknowledged and fulfilled my wish. Because he cares about his fans that much.
“To say I’m shocked and saddened is a gross understatement. I’m completely gutted for his family, including his wife, Stacey. I hope they can find at least some small amount of solace in the fact that he made mine and many others’ lives so much better by having known him.” – David Cook
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Michael Johns is that people can make a difference just by going after what they love and spreading love to others. While following his music career, I admired how he never let any setbacks push him down, always choosing to rise up, to keep striving, and to give everything his all with drive and gratitude. He made the most out of every opportunity presented to him, and something in that lit a fire in me to go on and chase my dreams too. He was a generous human being who was constantly giving back to others, from advocating several charities and organizations to cheering on his American Idol family and other musicians in the industry.
I will never forget the last time I got to see Michael in person at the David Foster and Friends show in Vancouver five years ago. My Mom was recovering from a stroke, and I had brought her as my guest. Just to see him be so sweet to my Mom helped to restore some of the faith and optimism I had lost during this extremely tough time.
It is clear that Michael changed so many lives. He was that catalyst in mine, and over the last six years, his life-altering influence has lead me to reignite my love for music, to connect with some of the most wonderful friends I am lucky to know, to embark on great adventures, and to keep on keeping on. For all this, I will be eternally grateful.
I will miss his voice, his humour, his charisma, his energy, his heart, and even the little things like his adorable photos of his dog Puddy and his professional sports tweets on Twitter (I don’t know jack about the subject, but I was right there getting all fired up too – come on, Federer!). I’m scared to think of a world without him, but the inspiring legacy he leaves behind gives me hope.
I like to think that this Australian wonder from down under has soared up to that paradise above and is now being the life of the party and causing a laugh riot as he did wherever he went on Earth. Thank you for sharing your remarkable gifts and your beautiful soul with us all, Michael Johns. I will love you forever and miss you like crazy. Cheers in the limitless undying sky, mate.
“There’s no perfect road map. You just got to follow your heart and try and be the best person you can.“
- Michael Johns (1978-2014)