Remembering Michael Johns

PopMatters takes a look back on the music of the all-too-soon departed Michael Johns, an Idol in the truest sense of the word.

Michael Johns only made it to eighth place in Season 7 of American Idol, but he was adored by countless TV viewers and music fans. During his time on what was then the most-watched show on television, he was one of the few contestants who managed to capture the nation’s attention, all the while still being well liked and uncontroversial.

In the seven years since then, he continued to work on his music career. In one of his last tweets, he said that he was “headed to the studio to work on a new song called “Reckless”, been waiting a long time for this one.”

On Friday, August 1, Michael Johns died from complications resulting from a blood clot that developed in a sprained ankle. He was 35 years old. The tragic death of this talented vocalist and beloved husband only reminds us that life can be fickle, but at least we will always have his music.

Born in Perth, Australia, he immigrated to the US after receiving a tennis scholarship. He also dabbled in acting and a non-professional soccer league, but soon realized that music was his true calling. He was a member of the group Film, but was signed to Maverick Records a little over a year later as a solo artist.

He recorded an album as the lead singer of The Rising, but it didn’t garner much attention until its 2008 iTunes re-release.

But 2007 wasn’t just the year he got married; it was also the year he auditioned for the seventh season of American Idol. Throughout the competition, he impressed the judges and viewers at home with his classic rock stylings. Perhaps his most memorable moment in the competition was this sultry re-imagining of Dolly Parton’s “It’s All Wrong, But It’s Alright”.

A week later, viewers were stunned and an irate audience booed when he was eliminated from the competition. He once said about his final performance of Aerosmith’s “Dream On”, “If there’s a song to go out on, that’s not a bad one.”

A chance duet with fellow American Idol contestant Carly Smithson led to more performances together on the show’s season finale and subsequent tour.

The two became good friends and continued to team up together even after their obligations to the show were over. A day after his passing, she tweeted, “I don’t know what to say or how to feel. I was so strong yesterday but today I’m just a mess. My buddy is gone forever.”

Johns also recorded a song for the documentary Don’t Look Down with Brooke White, who was another Season 7 American Idol contestant.

Later on that year, he released the charity single “Another Christmas”, which benefited the American Red Cross and the MDA’s ALS division.

In 2009, he released the Hold Back My Heart album, and its title track as a digital single. He also did some promotion for another album track, “Heart on My Sleeve”.

Producer David Foster selected him to perform the classics “She’s A Beauty/Man In Motion” for his Hitman: David Foster & Friends PBS special and tour.

Two years ago, he released a three-song collection entitled Love & Sex as a digital download. No annoucement has been made yet about the release of any music he may have recorded since then.