The Hudsucker is a true testament to the power of dreams, dedication, and friendship. When our online magazine was first created two years ago, it was just an idea floating in my head that I wanted to share with the world, but never knew how to. Creating a site like this was something I had never done before. It was scary and daunting, and very much out of my usual journalistic norm. But I owe a lot of this site’s growth in the past two years to friendship and the strength such a relationship can wield. I also owe a lot of this site’s potential and growth to my friend, Michael Johns.
You see, if it hadn’t been for Michael and watching the seventh season of American Idol back in 2008, the site would never have been born and I wouldn’t have made such amazing friends along the way. I would never have had that conversation with Katherine in 2012 about going through with a venture like The Hudsucker. If I hadn’t known her, who would I confide in? Who would I have trusted to help take on such an ambitious project?
It was in 2008 that I started watching American Idol again. That evening I was introduced to the Aussie, Michael Lee, a charming and talented soul singer from Georgia. He was bright-eyed and confident, emitting a genuine warmth about him. When he sang, it was soulful and felt heartful. His voice wasn’t just another smooth one auditioning that day—it was innately passionate and you could hear it in the pulls. I knew from that moment on that Michael would be my favorite singer. Not only was he talented and had the voice, but a personality I could relate to. He was the ‘real deal’. There was nothing about him that felt put on. He was soft-spoken, humble, and incredibly attentive. And the best part was when he got the ticket to Hollywood, he shouted, “It can happen!” Those three words made me realize in that instant, dreams come true if you work for them.
After Michael got through, I was excited and would watch week after week, get online and chat with others and blog about the show’s ups and downs, including my extreme disappointment when he was eliminated in the 8th round. It’s amazing to look back and see that because of him, I made a lot of friends from watching the show (‘Seven is Heaven’). A lot of them are currently serving as editors/writers to our site (Elizabeth, Katherine, Ashleigh, Andrew, Desi, Cathie, Paulette, Andrea, Stephanie, and Kathleen) too. We’re all still friends to this day, and these are literally people I can trust with my life—some of whom I consider my siblings. We all bonded, shared stories from the tours, meet and greets, and everything else in between. During the Idols Tour, I was fortunate enough to meet Michael in Toronto and he was ever-kind and sweet in person as he was on television.
Shortly after the tour, Michael and I began communicating. He was extremely congenial and considered me a friend in his world, and I considered him like one too—except with brotherly qualities.
Throughout these past six years of knowing and seeing him flourish, and live out his dreams, Michael’s been an inspiration to me when following my own. I once found great ease writing about him, whether it be an album review or interview, but this past month has proven extremely hard.
Michael passed away on the first of August at the age of 35. As a writer, speaking about him in past tense is something I haven’t yet come to terms with. It still pains.
They say death ends a life, but not a relationship, and I do believe that to be true. When news broke out of his passing, these very wonderful souls that I first befriended some six years ago were those that I was able to lean on in such hard times. It was okay to cry about him with them because he brought such light into every life he touched.
Michael played a great hand in bringing love into people’s lives because he himself was a loving person. He was so kind and generous, and you’re going to hear about it from the other writers in just a moment. There really aren’t any other words to describe that quality about him. He was a beautiful man and everyone who knew him, loved him.
I’m going to miss him so very much. I wish I could thank Michael for everything he’s ever given me and tell him how far he’s pushed me today. I send my love to his beautiful and equally kind wife, Stacey, his family, close friends, and the many fans around the world who adored him. Rest in peace, brother.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief, The Hudsucker
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To celebrate Michael’s life and honor his memory, our team wanted to share with readers and fans around the world, how this extremely kind, thoughtful and warmhearted individual impacted our lives. Michael was a friend to us in many ways, treated us like we were important, and for that, we are ever humbled and thankful.
Season 7 of Idol was particularly special to me since it was during this cycle that I met so many of the friends I am still closest to now, and Michael was a huge part of that. Every time we would go to a show, Michael was so funny and entertaining. I was always especially thankful to him because he was my mom’s favorite, and when we went to one of the after-parties, he took a lot of time with her and talked to her for quite a while. I know it made her feel special, and it really showed what kind of character he had.
I really loved his work with The Rising. The lyrics always resonated with me, and within a few months of having the album, they shot to number one on my last.fm most played. After Idol, he played a few of The Rising’s songs at solo gigs. This is my favorite song, and hearing him talk about the meaning of it made it even more personal for me.
I’m still not sure what to say about the passing of Michael Johns. I’m not one who usually mourns the deaths of celebrities or people that I don’t know more than just being sad that someone has passed away. And though I didn’t really know Michael, I am absolutely devastated by his passing. I had met him a few times at concerts and he was nothing but nice, gracious and funny. Going to his concerts with my friends are some of my favorite memories of my entire life. I’ll never forget him signing a cd for my mother and taking a picture with it since she couldn’t be at a show because she was sick. I’ll never forget how much time he and Brooke White spent with my friends and I after a show in Seattle taking pictures and chatting with us, even though the concert was long over. But more than that, through him and his music, as well as his participation in season 7 of American Idol, I made friends who I will know for the rest of my life. I met people who I would have never crossed paths with had it not been for Michael, and these people have enriched my life in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I’m sad there will be no more Michael Johns records to listen to. I’m sad there will be no more concerts to go to with friends. And I’m sad I never got to properly thank him for all he gave me.
Michael Johns had shock value down to an art. When I first heard him sing on American Idol, I was stunned by his voice – a nice blend of passionate soul and powerful rock. I and the rest of the Idol audience were scandalized when he got eliminated in eighth place (I may have screamed at my television). Throughout his life and career, he continued to prove that he was an undeniably unpredictable, unique, and unforgettable individual. It’s no surprise that his death brought tremendous shockwaves of devastation to all of his beloved family, friends, and fans.
I wrote a tribute to Michael Johns on my blog, but my remembrances don’t just end there. The memories loom over me wherever I go, and in whatever I do, because for me, my greatest shock was the major impact this one man had on my life over the six years I’ve been acquainted with him.
If it wasn’t for Michael, I would be a very different person right now. I would not have gotten into American Idol, I would not have sought out an community of fellow fans and music lovers online, and thus, I would not have met many of my closest friends today. These amazing people have been integral to my twenties thus far. We’ve engaged in conversations over not just music, but everything imaginable. They’ve helped me celebrate the good times, comforted me during the hard times, and been constant figures of love and support. As Tania and all of my fellow writers have also already said, I wouldn’t even be posting on The Hudsucker right now, because this venture wouldn’t exist. And that’s all because of Michael.
The lesson that Michael’s life imparts on us is that when you input your talent and your heart into your surroundings, the output will be a source of inspiration to someone, somewhere. Michael Johns is an example of what can happen when you share goodness with the world – you become a catalyst who can change a life for the better.
I will miss everything about Michael Johns – his voice, his humour, his character, his generosity – for the rest of my life. It’s been two weeks and it already feels like too long without him. But in his wake, I’m reminded of the amazing people I’ve met and incredible experiences I’ve had because of him, and that makes me feel uplifted and limitless. His profound influence on my life and the lives of others will live on as his lasting legacy, that’s for damn sure.
My favourite of my many memories of Michael was attending his concert with Brooke White in Seattle with Katherine and our two friends, Stefanie and Janine, back in 2009. I was overjoyed to be meeting up with three of my good pals and seeing my two favourite Idols with them. Both Michael and Brooke knew I was a HUGE fan of the both of them and made the night extra special for our whole group (as Katherine mentioned above). Michael in particular dedicated The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” (my favourite cover of his) to me, as per my fan request. It’s the kind of thing that only happens in your best dreams, but he made it a reality, and it’s a moment I will treasure forever.
Michael and Brooke’s duet of “Life is Okay” is and always will be my favourite original song from any of the American Idol finalists. This collaboration between my favourite male Idol and my favourite female Idol is pure musical magic.
I gotta say I was never a big fan of American Idol before Michael came along. It was a show I’d watch with my mom and sister every now and then, we’d root for someone and then forget about it. Oddly enough the first performance that I really remember about him was his elimination. I remember Paula Abdul looking shocked, Carly Smithson crying and then he goes and starts singing “Dream On”. Now, I’m a big Aerosmith fan so I get really pissed when people on singing shows ruin them (Hi Danny Gokey!) but Michael’s version moved me. He had this attitude about him, normally when people get voted off they cry, they put that “I’m just happy to be here” face but not Michael. There was this defiance there, he went pass the judges and sang directly to the audience, fist up in the air, really meaning every word of the song. He had this amazing, powerful voice, to this day it’s one of my all time favorite male rock voices. I was an instant fan but now I was pissed that just when I really liked someone he got voted off. I went online, googled him and ended up on several forums where I joined after lurking for a while. From then on, I spent probably too many hours watching videos, chatting, listening to his music and meeting people from places as far away as Singapore or Canada (Hi Tania!). When the tour started, even if I never went to any concert, I had a blast watching his set and laughing with the online peeps at the cheesy dance moves, the Mavid love story and all the tour shenanigans. I’ll always remember Michael fondly not only for his voice and music but for the friends I made during those days. Thanks MJ for all the fun times and for sharing your talent with the world. Keep rocking in heaven mate, cheers.
For my favorite performance I could mention “Dream On”, “Fool’s Gold”, his pre-Idol stuff but I wanna remember Michael like the big goof he was so I gotta go with that “Total Eclipse of the Heart” version with The Dan Band. I mean, look at those dance moves! Priceless.
Michael Johns was the real deal. For many of us, he came into our lives as we, along with millions of others, watched him on American Idol Season 7. While that was the platform that allowed us to meet him and get to know him, you would never guess it. Down to earth, genuine, true. These are all words that describe him accurately. We were in an elevator the first time I was in his presence. It all happened so fast that I didn’t realize who I was in the lift with, but the memory stayed. The first real interaction came in Evansville, Indiana, the second to last stop on the American Idols LIVE! Tour. We were guests at the after party and had a great time in meeting and chatting with Michael. There was talk of Star Wars action figures and siblings and the most random of topics that we all chimed in on easily.
A few days later, at the end of the the Idols tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we were after party guests again. I still have my passes that say MJ on them. When we headed into the after party, our group was sent off to the side and not into the main room. It was peculiar, and at first it felt like we were being punished. Why couldn’t we be with the others? As we were sent to wind down around the bend of the hallway, we stopped to stand there with no one else around. The walls were white with an asylum feel. Suddenly, as if he appeared out of nowhere (I think he did!), Michael was there. He had his Freddie mustache and a belt and two shirts slung over his shoulder, a mug with his name on it (which we later found out he stole!) was what he sipped from, and it did not contain water. He said it was the last show and he just wasn’t wanting to be in the full crowd, he wanted to hang out with us. This was a surprise, but my goodness, what a fun one. To say it was ridiculous is an understatement. It was definitely a high point in a summer full of high points. Each time I saw him, no matter what the occasion or how much time had passed, he remembered me and we fell right back into place with an easy conversation and many smiles. One of my favorite memories is the time Michael came over to meet my mother. It was an insanely hot day, well over 100 degrees, and we were all feeling the effects from it, yet, he left the comfort of the side stage area and walked with me to a place that was shaded were Mom was sitting. That was the kind of person he was, and it’s that incredible giving spirit that is missed. His voice was one of a kind, and we are blessed to have recordings and videos to keep that part of him alive. While it will be difficult to not hear new music and hear his heart as we have come to know, what is really a challenge to grasp is the loss of his smile, his laughter, and that way he had of making everyone feel like they mattered. Because they did to him.
Sometimes when asked about a favorite, an immediate response comes to mind. That isn’t the case with Michael and his music. I think of one and then I’m reminded of another, and still another. He really was that good. I am such a fan of “Another Christmas”, and look forward to the holiday season each year knowing it will be a song that pops up often on my playlist. I really really love the duet with Brooke White, “Life Is Okay”. The words, the way their voices compliment one another and blend? It’s musical perfection. I get chills when I watch back a video that I actually shot in Sacramento, CA, when Michael performed “Turn To You”. His soul is so evident.
He may have a song called “Heart On My Sleeve” because his soul takes over everything else. Not many artists come to mind that encapsulate the same, which is why we are so blessed to have had Michael in our lives as we have. I can’t help but think that he’s smiling down, seeing for himself how much of an impression he left on so many. My only hope is that he truly did realize it while he was here.
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October 20, 1978 – August 1, 2014
If you have a story to share about Michael with us, please comment below.
Editor’s Note: Over at Michael Johns’ official website, fans are putting together a video tribute. If you would like to take part, head on over to Michael Johns Online, and follow them on Twitter for updates.