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Jackson’s backup singer takes center stage

Judith Hill, 25, channeled the rehearsals she put in for Jackson's planned London concert series into her stirring performance at the memorial.
/ Source: Access Hollywood

Michael Jackson’s former backup singer Judith Hill is taking center stage after performing “We Are The World” and “Heal The World” at Tuesday’s public memorial to the late King of Pop.

Hill, just 25 years old and a Los Angeles-raised musician, was set to perform with Jackson in London for his “This Is It” concert dates, which were to have kicked off next week. Instead, she channeled the rehearsals she put in for the concert series into her stirring performance at the memorial.

Rolling Stone’s online blog was first to identify the singer, whose kind face and bouncy curls were just part of the friendly appeal of her Jackson memorial performance.

According to Hill’s own Web site, her curls are the result of her bi-racial Japanese and black parentage.

“I was a skinny mixed kid with a lot of hair that I didn’t know what to do with (and still don’t know what to do with it,” she said on her own Web site bio. “And my mom could not help me with it!”

Inspired by her Christian upbringing, Hill first began singing at the age of four. She doesn’t, however, recall her early singing through rose colored glasses.

“It was painful,” she said of her very youthful recordings. “I was my own worst critic and I knew that I sucked! People tried to sell me as a prodigy, but I wasn’t ready.”

But a host of legendary women — gospel singer Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald — helped send Hill on her musical path.

“I sang along with cassette recordings of them because the sounds they made with their voices gave me hope,” she said in her bio. “It was something that took me away from my reality. It was something I had to be a part of.”

Not just a singer, Hill is a songwriter as well — some of them coming to her when she is asleep.

“Sometimes I wake up because I hear songs in my dreams,” she said in her bio. “I have to turn the lamp on and scribble the melodies down in the middle of the night. My dad always told me God told him I needed to be born. I guess there’s a reason for my madness.”

In April 2009, Hill wrote in the news section of her Web site that she finished recording her album, but no details were immediately available on when it was due for release.