Judith Hill: From the Background Center Stage

Judith Hill: From the Background to Center Stage

Words By Rob Nicholson

 When I first heard Judith Hill was scheduled for a show at the historic Ritz Theatre in January, I thought to myself, “How do I know Judith Hill?” I wasn’t confusing her with Lauren Hill. Had I seen her in concert previously? No, I’m sure I hadn’t. After a quick Google search, I realized how I knew her: She performed at Michael Jackson’s memorial service at the Staples Center on July 7, 2009. 

The celebrities and entertainers who paid homage to the King of Pop included Quincy Jones, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Lionel Richie, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and that’s only scratching the surface. Yet, all the world wanted to know was, “Who was the woman that sang ‘Heal the World’?” It was Judith Hill.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Hill comes from a bi-racial, musical family. Her mother, Michiko, who is Japanese, and her father, Robert (aka Pee Wee), who is African-American, met in a 1970s funk band (and continue to perform as part of her backing ensemble), and their fingerprints are all over her latest album, “Baby, I’m Hollywood.” After graduating from Biola University with a degree in music composition, Hill headed for France in 2007 to join French superstar Michel Polnareff’s touring band. Returning to the U.S. inspired, Hill ascended to star status of her own as a singer, songwriter and bandleader.

Hill’s career is explored in “20 Feet from Stardom,” a Grammy- and Oscar-winning documentary about the lives of background singers. In addition to Jackson, she performed with

Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Josh Groban, among others. She also appeared on the fourth season of “The Voice,” as part of Adam Levine’s team; and sang on the soundtracks of “The Lorax” and “Happy Feet Two,” as well as George Benson’s tribute to Nat King Cole.

Following an appearance on Revolt TV, where she expressed her designer to work with Prince, The Purple One invited her to his studio, Paisley Park. He went on to co-produce (and play on) her debut solo album “Back in Time” released in 2015 to critical acclaim. Her self-produced album “Golden Child” was released in 2018.

Back on the road after the pandemic, Hill is touring in support of her latest release “Baby, I’m Hollywood.” She’s described the album as being about acceptance. “Coming to terms with my story and unapologetically stepping into who I am,” she said. “I want to bring people inside my soul and help them see past the make-up, stage lights, rumors and history…to step out of the shadows of fear and into the light of vulnerability.”


You can experience the magic that is Judith Hill yourself at The Ritz Theatre & Museum on Jan. 13. 


Other events coming up at The Ritz include:

 Jazz Jam Photo Exhibit, Jan. 16

Bobby Rush: Live, Jan. 22

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Feb. 4

Gerald Alston featuring Ritz Voices, Feb. 17

“Angry Insecure Men,” March 24


For more information on shows and to buy tickets, visit ritzjacksonville.com.

About Rob Nicholson

Rob started his media career in the late 80’s working in the Press Office at the Georgia House of Representatives. From there, Rob segued in to Radio at The Voice of Georgia State University, WRAS Album 88.5 in Atlanta. In the early 90’s Rob was picked up by the Radio 2000 Group and became Program Director and later Vice President of Programming USA. In the late 90’s, while running 3 music-driven radio stations in Springfield, Missouri, Rob had the opportunity to put together and launch, Southwest Missouri’s Regional Periodical, 417 Magazine. A publication that is still in circulation today. After selling his interests in Radio 2000 in the early 2000’s, Rob returned to his hometown of Jacksonville Beach, Florida to be near family. For 10 years he worked with the Clear Channel Radio Stations: Planet Radio and KISS-FM. In 2010, Rob took a hiatus from radio and went in to concert promotion and event planning, while also running the now 30 year old Beaches Hospitality Network – the organization that is well known for bringing the Superbowl, 2004 to the beaches area. When presented with the opportunity to work with Folio Weekly Magazine, Rob said, “there was no way I could resist an opportunity to work with the local, independent news magazine in the city I’m from. I can’t wait to get to work every morning”. Rob currently resides in North Jax Beach with his brother, Rich and dog, Tonka.