Celebrities who are (or were) JWs – Part 1
This list of famous Jehovah’s Witnesses was updated right after the death of Michael Jackson. Besides Jackson, this group includes Mickey Spillane, Prince, Jill Scott, and George Benson.
This was the very first of our popular articles about celebrities and talented performers who have some sort of past or present history connected to the Jehovah’s Witness religion. We’ve updated a few things and have added an extended video gallery at the end of the article. Our purpose is to fairly present these famous people and their often extensive talents. You may find yourself amazed and educated.
We’ll be updating the other articles in this same series over the next few weeks, adding expanded video galleries to each one. Please feel free to comment and let us know how you like the changes. Be sure to tell your friends to check us out.
This article was first published on April 15, 2009. Within 72 hours prior to the June 25, 2009 update, American pop culture lost three of its entertainment icons: Ed McMahon (Johnny Carson’s sidekick and foil), Farrah Fawcett (every teenage boy’s fantasy girl from 1972-1982), and Michael Jackson (so-called “King of Pop” and walking example of really bad plastic surgery) – who happened to be one of the celebrities on our first list. Please note that this list has now been updated to reflect the passing of former Jehovah’s Witness, Michael Joseph Jackson.
The following is just a short list of famous persons in politics, music and movies that are or were Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are many more that we add over time, and eventually we’ll make a master index, but this will be our starting point.
Please feel free to let us know if you know of any others. You may use the comment area at the bottom of this article, or the contact form found elsewhere on this site. We’d love to hear from you.
Here are our first five celebrity Jehovah’s Witnesses:
- Michael Jackson (performance artist)
- Mickey Spillane (pulp fiction writer)
- Prince (performance artist)
- Jill Scott (actress and singer)
- George Benson (jazz musician)
- Michael Jackson (1958 – ), an American pop music recording artist and entertainer. A member of the musical Jackson family, at the age of 11 he first performed as a member of The Jackson 5. He began a solo career in 1971. Referred to as the “King of Pop” in subsequent years, five of his solo studio albums have become some of the world’s best-selling records: Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995). After several years of severe criticism on the part of other JWs, he was disfellowshipped sometime around 1990. There was a report that he had converted to Islam in 2008, but subsequent information indicated that he had only “studied the religion, but did not convert.” Jackson, aged 50, suffered cardiac arrest on June 25, 2009 and died at UCLA Medical Center. His three children are being raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses by his mother and sister. [Status: Deceased]
- Mickey Spillane (March 9, 1918 – July 17, 2006), famous American author of crime novels, most featuring Mike Hammer, a tough big city private detective. Nearly 250 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide and Spillane was responsible for seven of the top fifteen bestselling fiction books in America. Spillane appeared as Mike Hammer in a movie version of “I, the Jury” – one of the few times in film history when an author portrayed his own character. During the 1980s, he appeared in several Miller Lite beer commercials. Spillane became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1951 and managed to survive the often bitter criticism he received from many fellow Witnesses that his novels were “too trashy and pornographic.” He remained a JW and continued with his writing career until his death. [Status: Deceased]
- Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson; 1958 – ) American singer and performance artist. Winner of seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and named the top male pop artist of the past 25 years in 2004. His 1984 album, Purple Rain sold more than 13 million copies in the US and was #1 on the Billboard 200 for almost six months. His Academy Award-winning film grossed more than $80 million in the US alone, and proved to be Prince’s biggest cinematic success. In 1997, Prince approached funk bassist Larry Graham about his Jehovah’s Witness faith and apparently became very interested. He was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001. His album, The Rainbow Children, reportedly is based heavily upon Jehovah’s Witness religious themes. [Status: Apparently Active]
- Jill Scott (1972 – ), American actress most famed for being a jazz and rhythm and blues vocalist. She has collaborated with Eric Benet, Will Smith, and Common, and broadened her on-stage performing experience by touring Canada in a production of the Broadway musical Rent. Most recently seen playing the lead in HBO’s series, “Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” a story of a single woman trying to run her own business in Botswana. Known for her broad smile and love of life. Won a 2005 Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative R&B Performance for “Cross My Mind.” Raised by her grandmother from the age of 12 as a Jehovah’s Witness, she was never baptized. She reportedly does not identify with any particular religious organization. [Status: Unaffiliated]
- George Benson, (1943 – ), American musician, jazz guitarist, and singer. Won Grammy awards for his 1978 song “This Masquerade” and for his live remake of “On Broadway.” He has collaborated with Chet Atkins, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau, the Beatles and many other prominent musicians. He often appears as a guest artist on other performers’ albums. He has been described as semi-retired and living in Arizona. He apparently is still a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing. [Status: Active]