When John Mayer played 'Human Nature' at Michael Jackson's memorial and the world went silent

26 June 2022, 17:54

John Mayer performing at Michael Jackson's memorial
John Mayer performing at Michael Jackson's memorial. Picture: Getty/Michael Jackson

By Tom Eames

Michael Jackson's memorial in 2009 was one of the most-watched TV events in world history, with many huge stars paying tribute to the King of Pop.

A memorial service for Michael Jackson was held on July 7, 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, 12 days after his death.

Attended by Michael's family and friends, the singer's closed, solid-bronze casket, plated with 14-karat gold and lined with blue velvet, was placed in front of the stage.

There were performances by Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie and Jennifer Hudson among others, while the likes of Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson and Brooke Sheilds gave eulogies.

John Mayer performs 'Human Nature'
John Mayer performs 'Human Nature'. Picture: Getty

It was estimated that over 2.5 billion people watched the event worldwide, making it the most-watched single-day TV broadcast in history.

But perhaps one of the most surprising and powerful moments of the day, was singer John Mayer performing 'Human Nature'.

The then-32-year-old came up on stage, but rather than singing the classic Michael Jackson song, he performed it on electric guitar.

The simple yet effective performance saw those in the audience and the millions watching at home stop in awe, as John played the song with such beauty and respect.

Watch the performance below:

Speaking about being asked to perform at the event by the Jackson family shortly afterwards, he told CNN's Larry King: "It took me about 48 hours to sort of strike the balance in how I was going to approach being invited to this unbelievable event without actually having the proximity to Michael Jackson, personally. I'd never met him.

"I come from a generation that sort of gets told one way or another that we were born at the wrong time. You know, people say you should had it - 20 years ago, you could have done this and this and that. And to know that, you know, in my early years and my generation's earlier years, you know, we were handed sort of down through MTV and the radio.

"Something like 'Thriller'. Imagine your first record, because you don't pick music the first five years that, you know, you're running around as a little kid."

On why he chose not to sing the song, he added: "I don't have a great vocal range. In fact, it's actually helped me out in songwriting.

"I have to write my own songs to be able to appreciate or get anything out of my pretty limited vocal range. But on the guitar I'm able to sort of - it's limitless for me. It's as long as the neck is. I can go anywhere I want.

"The decision to not sing is just out of knowing what's best for me. I think it's quite a minefield to go into trying to in any way replicate vocally what Michael Jackson has done. And in a way, it was sort of respectfully leaving an absence, you know, sort of the presence of his absence."