29th January, 2011
California, U.S.A.


 
 
 

A Day with Michael English

... and it only took two decades ...

by Doug Jones

 

Our sincerest thanks to Michael English for sending us these wonderful photographs!



We all know what it feels like to have an admiration for someone in the public eye, whether it's a sports figure, a politician, an actor, or in my case .... an amazing musician.

Travel back in time with me if you will to 1991. After a couple of schlocky horror films, I had just booked my first credited role in a big studio film, Batman Returns. A couple of nervous weeks before filming began, I was home flipping through channels on my TV. Landing on TBN, I saw a bunch of old-time southern gospel singers standing around a piano, singing my favorite style of music. I put the remote down and sat back smiling.

Then it happened. As someone says, "Sing the second verse, Michael," the camera pans to a tall young fellow in a turtleneck. That was the first time I understood the term "voice of an angel." The TV special was the very first Gaither Homecoming. This voice belonged to a member of the Gaither Vocal Band who instantly became my favorite male vocalist of all time ... Michael English ... singing what has become a signature song of his, "I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy."

Since 1991, I have followed his life and career as closely as an admirer can. I own every solo album of his, every Gaither Vocal Band album that he is a part of, and I play them all with the frequency of a crazed fan. As my own movie career took off, and I began to travel more for location shoots, Michael's CDs would make every trip with me. Without him knowing it, Michael has sung me through all the peaks and valleys of my own personal and professional life. He's been the voice that keeps me company on road trips, that soothes me after a horrible day, or that celebrates with me after a fantastic day. All the while, as most fans do, I would wonder what it might be like to know him in real life. Would we be able to relate to each other? Would we share a sense of humor? All that.

So this past November, almost exactly 19 years after that first TV viewing, I am sitting in my hotel room after a very full day appearing at Austin Comic Con in Texas. The song I needed to hear to calm me into a slumber before the next day was "Healing" by Michael and his good friend Wynonna Judd (from The Silent Fall movie soundtrack). I linked that YouTube video into messages on all my social media, saying, "Great day at Austin Comic Con! Back at it tomorrow. And now to lull me to sleep, here's Michael English & Wynonna Judd (with YouTube link)." I had a comforted listen, and went off to sleep.

Back home in Los Angeles, I checked in with those social media outlets again, and when I looked at Twitter, I went pale as all the blood drained from my head. I had a new follower and a message from @menglish001 ...

... You've got to be kidd- ... WHA- ... Oh. My. Gosh. OMG! OMG! OMG!!!!! It's Michael Flipping English!!!!!

I didn't even know he was on Twitter!!! But he had seen my tweet about his video with Wynonna and answered by saying, "Not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not."

I chuckled, then quickly followed him back, and replied by reassuring him that it was indeed a compliment, and I thanked him for "making this goofy actor pee down his own leg." Yes. I was that excited to have made contact with my musical idol of 19 years.

Thus began some back & forths on Twitter that turned into private Direct Messages where he told me he was also a fan of mine. I think I lost my pulse that day. But you know how it's been said that actors are fascinated with singers, and singers are fascinated with actors? No truer words ever spoken.

Our fascination with each other continued as phone numbers were exchanged, and we turned into giddy, gabby, texty teenagers. Imagine that first call, with Michael telling me, "I can't believe the Silver Surfer loves my music."

And me telling him, "Well I couldn't have gotten through that shoot without you," as his CDs sang me through that, and many other challenging film shoots.

Also imagine me, a non-book reader, tearing through Michael's autobiography (THE PRODIGAL COMES HOME - see link below) in only two days, texting back & forth with its author all the while - An experience most readers don't get, I'm guessing.

We were becoming close friends at such a surreal pace. Surreal. A word that keeps coming to mind as I try to wrap my head around finding such a great friend this way. And the only word that can describe what came next ...

... January 29, 2011 ... A live concert in the Los Angeles area only two and a half months after that first Twitter message. Michael is back with the ever-popular Gaither Vocal Band, and their Homecoming Tour was heading out West. He insisted that Mrs. Laurie and I come as his guests with the "full V.I.P. treatment," including a parking space by the tour buses four hours before showtime so we could hang out, laugh, get to know each other in person, and have dinner with the Gaithers and guest artists. Then during showtime, we sat in the artists section just offstage, getting an insider's perspective during what is now my favorite concert I've ever attended. This is what Heaven must sound like, as I was in tears several times throughout the show, and laughing until my throat hurt during all their comedic bits onstage. Michael sang to perfection, forever keeping his title as my favorite male vocalist of all time.

Even with this perfect musical experience with my idol, my favorite part of this day was completing something that started on Twitter, of all places. As well as we clicked via Twitter, texting, e-mails, and phone talk, this in-person experience clicked even stronger. I felt like I was meeting someone I'd been seperated from at birth (and we joked that the doctors cut us apart just my side of center). We connect with many similarities, celebrate our few differences, and laugh our way through all of it.

Michael English is a big-hearted, gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor whose talents and gifts go far beyond that angelic voice. Even if he never sang another note, I will cherish his brotherly friendship from now into eternity. There are many who can sing, but so few who can truly communicate. To me, Michael's singing never came from his perfect vocal chords, but from his beautiful, intuitive heart that touches the hearts of all who hear him. I am so proud to hold him as a close friend with so much more ahead.

And don't let Mrs. Laurie fool you. She was every bit the giddy school girl that night. More good news, in the meantime, is that she and the delightfully brilliant and beautiful Mrs. Marcie English have become fast, furious friends over the phone, as well. All four of us get on like family, and it just feels like slipping into that familiar, comfortable pair of shoes.

Michael walked us back out to our car at the end of the night. After more hugs, head pets and funny noises, Mrs. Laurie and I drove home in complete silence for an hour and a half, as this perfect day of love, laughter, music, and hugs echoed in our ears. I don't even remember the drive home, because I think we floated.

To those of you who have read this far, thank you for indulging me in my giddy state. And for you who have told me that you were jittery or giggly before meeting me for the first time, you may consider this story as sweet revenge.

There's Love Indeed -- Dougie

 

Click on the thumbnail to see a larger image

© 2011 Michael English. All rights reserved.

RELATED LINKS

Once you search "Michael English" on YouTube, you can stay in there for days, so let me get you started with this early clip of that signature song I mentioned, "I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy." This is the kind of live performance that has always marked him as a God-inspired force of nature.

 

 

 

For all of Michael English's solo CD's, this link will take you to the Music page of his official website (just follow the instructions from here to Amazon). I could boast about his voice all day, but Dolly Parton put it best when she said that there are a lot of good singers out there, but "Michael English has 'that thing.' " That thing that no one can put their finger on as goosebumps form and tears well up.

MICHAEL'S MUSIC

For a terrific read, his book, THE PRODIGAL COMES HOME will take you on Michael's very candid personal journey. I'm not much of a reader, but I rifled through it in only two days with it's easy flow, compelling drama, inside scoop, and an outcome that will make you believe in God's redemption in all of our lives, no matter what we've been through. This link to his official site Book page also has an Amazon link for ordering.

THE PRODIGAL COMES HOME

Find out if Michael is touring anywhere near you either solo or with the Gaither Vocal Band on the Tour page of his official site. An experience you won't want to miss.

TOUR DATES

And for the official Gaither Music site, you can find all their products, find out more about their guest artists & friends, and see where The Gaither Vocal Band will be touring near you next!

THE GAITHER VOCAL BAND

 

Doug Jones, Los Angeles,
11th February, 2011



© 2011 Doug Jones. All rights reserved.

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