'American Idol' Winners, Alums Share Randy Jackson Memories
"There's nothing 'pitchy' about this dawg, because he is in tune with the key of life," season six's Blake Lewis tells THR, echoing similar sentiments by 30 more finalists.
"Teddy bear," "sweetheart," "supporter" -- those are just some of the words used to describe Randy Jackson by American Idol graduates. Since 2002, when he first sat alongside then-judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, the affable music industry veteran has become a pop culture icon thanks to his signature catch-phrases and less-is-more critiques.
Along the way, he's helped scores of Idol alums navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of show business, offering guidance, a hook-up or even his own helping hand.
It's no wonder The Hollywood Reporter received such a tremendous response when we asked former Idols for their favorite Randy Jackson memories. Read on to see what winners Phillip Phillips, Scotty McCreery, Taylor Hicks, Fantasia Barrino and Ruben Studdard had to say about Jackson, who announced his exit from the Fox show at the end of this season, along with 30 more finalists...
Naima Adedapo (season 10): "I love Randy's spirit and was happy to have experienced him as a judge. My favorite moment: After two pretty harsh weeks of criticism from him, I had finished performing 'Dancing in the Street' and he said, 'Finallly tonight, all of Naima showed up!' I was proud to have won him over! It's going to be crazy not to see him at the judges' table reciting his infamous phrases. I've got much love for Randy and will miss seeing him on Idol each week."
Lauren Alaina (season 10): "Randy always had my back. He was a wonderful judge. His spunk, encouragement, and smile will be missed on the judging panel."
Bo Bice (season four): "I’m sad to hear Randy is leaving American Idol. He’s not only inspired me and helped make my dreams come true, but he’s done the same for over a decade for other contestants as well. I was truly amazed when this super musician and producer would say encouraging things about my performances; it was very validating for me, and I’ll always appreciate his support and honesty. We’ll miss you, dawg."
Crystal Bowersox (season nine): "Randy Jackson has been such an important part of the American Idol journey for so many. I have an immense amount of respect and love for him, and wish him the best in all of his future endeavors."
Jason Castro (season seven): "Randy was always a pretty fair judge. He could definitely be tough, but when he gave you props, it was awesome because you knew he meant it. I remember when I performed ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ … I think we were down to the final eight … and Randy said ‘Jason Castro is back!’ that was ‘blazing molten hot!’ He’s a major figure in the music industry, so when he said that, it really gave me confidence and meant a ton. He will be missed on Idol."
Kevin Covais (season five): "I had an amazing Idol experience seven years ago. I had the pleasure of performing in front of the original judges: Simon, Paula and Randy, all of whom I respect immensely. But I would have to say that my favorite judge was Randy Jackson. I felt like Randy always saw me for me and knew exactly what I was about as a person. And I felt like any criticism I received from him was constructive. I recall my last semifinal performance before advancing to the top 12. I performed the Don McLean song ‘Vincent.’ I remember Randy saying that he wasn't a fan of the song choice, but that he was a fan of mine. After my time on the show, I came across an interview from the night I got eliminated and Randy said how much everyone on the show loved me and how the future would be amazing for me. I might have been considered the underdog of my season of Idol, but I could tell Randy never thought of me that way. He knew that I was just an honest, real 16-year-old kid who loved to sing. He could see that because he is the same way. I've come across few people who are as genuine as Randy Jackson. He is an amazing dude. Idol will miss him when he's gone."
Bucky Covington (season five): "It will be hard to replace a talent like Randy, especially since he is such a beloved name in the music industry. He has great advice for the contestants no matter what he thinks of their chosen 'genre' and I always respected him for that. Very interested to see who will be chosen for the new panel of judges ... I personally think Judge Judy would be great on the show ..."
Melinda Doolittle (season six): "I credit Randy Jackson for encouraging the ‘Tina Turner’ in me. I went from not always being sure about the grit in my voice to embracing every second, thanks to his encouragement. As a huge fan of the original three judges, I will miss Randy dearly and am proud to have been one of his ‘dawgs!’"
Anoop Desai (season eight): "Randy inspired a nickname (Anoop Dogg) that still resonates in the minds of my fans across the world. Always enthusiastic, he has been a constant voice and guide on a true juggernaut of pop culture. His departure is the end of an era that has seen Idol produce superstars and music industry professionals for more than a decade. He's done everything from play with Journey to sign Brennan Huff's samurai sword, so I know that whatever he does next, it'll make an impact in someone's life for years to come. He definitely impacted mine."
James Durbin (season 10): "I was freshly eliminated and in New York City doing promo at the Fox Upfront, and Randy was a part of it. We ran into each other backstage and he asked what I was doing the next day. At that point I was scheduled to leave, but Randy got me the chance to go on Jimmy Fallon the next day and sing [Journey's] ‘Any Way You Want It’ with him and Jimmy. Awesome!"
Fantasia (season three winner): "Randy is the same man now that he has always been. He is always honest, humble and supportive. He never changes. He has always believed in me. Every time I’ve come back to Idol to perform, he is the first one to come up on stage and talk to me. He is always giving me good advice about my music and my career. And any time Randy needs me, I will always be there for him."
Tamyra Gray (season one): "For me, Randy was a familiar face in a foreign land. He always had an energetic spirit, a smile on his face and a kind word. His energy helped to put my nerves at ease when I was on the show. And after I left, he was still there to offer his advice, a listening ear and encouragement. He's an all around good ‘dude’ and the world knows it! I love you, Randy! May love and light always surround you."
Heejun Han (season 11): “Where is Randy going? To The Voice? I'm kidding. Randy is the nicest guy I ever met ... Maybe it helps since he wears glasses like I do -- I can definitely feel some nerdy vibe from him. The fact that he uses the word ‘Yo’ is really annoying since that was my grandfather’s name when he was alive .... Anyways, before being a judge of the biggest show on TV, he was a good father of his precious kids and a great husband. I hope to see him soon ... Wherever you go, you do your thang, dawgy!”
David Hernandez (season seven): "Randy, you have always been a musical inspiration to me, but more importantly, you helped guide me during my time on Idol. It has truly been a blessing to have worked with and know you. Without you as a judge and America voting, I wouldn't be in such an awesome musical place today! Thank you for encouraging me and future contestants!"
Taylor Hicks (season five winner): "Randy was a musician’s idol. He brought serious musical expertise as a judge. I always listened and followed his critiques. He will be missed."
Allison Iraheta (season eight): "Randy has made an incredible mark on history with his hard work, optimism, musical knowledge and love for everyone in this musical world. When I was on the show that person you saw on camera was exactly who he was in real life. Even after Idol, Randy has been a force of good in my life, and I am blessed to know him and call him a friend. I can't wait to see what he does next. I bet it's going to be off the hook, dawg!"
Michael Johns (season seven): "I have had the pleasure of working with Randy on many occasions since Idol. He is an immensely talented producer and a great, funny guy. My time on Idol was fun. The night I was voted off was ‘inspiration song’ week. I sang ‘Dream On,’ and Randy said, ‘Man, I just don't get that song choice. It was supposed to be an inspiration-themed song and you chose ‘Dream On.’ I said, ‘Randy, what's more inspirational than ‘dream on till your dreams come true?’ Just then Randy took a sip from his Coke cup that said in big letters, ‘Dream Big!’ Haha! Love that man. Idol will never be the same."
Blake Lewis (season six): "Randy is the 'dawgfather' of American Idol. He has been a big supporter of mine, both during my season of Idol and throughout my recording career. I'm sure he will continue being successful as a producer, musician and father because of his passion for creativity. There's nothing 'pitchy' about this dawg, because he is in tune with the key of life. Much love and respect, Randy."
Kimberley Locke (season two): "As a judge, I knew when Randy liked a performance and when he didn't. If he asked you, ‘Yo, dawg, how you feeling tonight?’ that meant he didn't like it but he was trying to be nice about it. I admire Randy for the work he has done on stage and off stage. He has had a great career. My best moments with Randy came when I was off the show when he signed me to his label Dream Merchant and we scored a top five dance hit with ‘Strobe Light.’ I was honored to have had that time with him in studio. Randy, can't wait to see what you will be up to in coming years!"
Scott MacIntyre (season eight): "To me, Randy was always the glue that held the judges together. He has been there from the beginning, and he is synonymous with American Idol. I was always excited to hear what Randy would say about my performances each week. He really understood my passion, and as a blind person, I immediately connected with him because of the passion and inflection with which he speaks. … The show went on without Simon, but when Randy leaves, things will not be the same."
Siobhan Magnus (season nine): "Randy has always been my favorite judge on Idol. My most special Randy moment was one week, after my performance, Simon started to make fun of my outfit again, specifically my shoes. Randy defended me, I'm pretty sure he said, 'Naw, dawg. Those are Missy Elliott Adidas!' And then he told me he understood that I was an 'artist.' Him telling me I was an artist, not just a singer, was one of my proudest moments my whole time on Idol, and in my whole life. I remind myself of that moment pretty much every time I feel misunderstood!"
Mandisa (season five): "Randy Jackson played a big role in where I am today. Coming in ninth place on season five of American Idol left me grasping for every opportunity. I was shocked at the number of doors that were open for me after my elimination. I had labels calling for meetings out the wazoo! It's easy to let the fame get to your head when you've been in the 'Idol bubble' for so long. Many people want to take any record deal that offers the most money or the biggest opportunity for worldwide success. But I'll never forget watching Larry King Live before we began our 60-city American Idol tour. Larry’s guests were Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee (first and second place on my season). Randy spoke some words that night that left an indelible mark on me. He turned to Tay-Tay and Kat and said, 'I'll give you guys one last piece of advice. Accept what you sing best and stick with it.' Such simple advice, really, but it opened my eyes. I knew then that I could make an R&B album, like many of the labels wanted. But when I got right down to it, the music I sing best, that comes most naturally for me, is about the most important person in my life: Jesus. ... I followed Randy's advice, and after seven years, five albums, hundreds of thousands sold, and most importantly, countless lives impacted, I am so thankful for those words."
Scotty McCreery (season 10 winner): "Randy was there from the beginning and added a huge element to the show with his experience and critique that will be truly missed. I loved having him on my season, but even with him gone, he'll always be 'America's dawg ...'"
Paul McDonald (season 10): "Most people see Randy Jackson as a TV personality, but I know him as an entrepreneur, artist, musician and producer. Before Idol, I spent five years grinding it out on the club and festival circuit. I knew that bands or singers didn't break over night. They paid their dues and worked their tails off. That's how Randy Jackson did it. Look at his 40-year career -- his dedication and drive …. One of my favorite moments was a late night Idol studio session in West Hollywood. I was tracking with Alex Da Kid and Randy just happened to be there working with a band he was producing. It was late and the vibe in the studio was right on. We got to sit down and have a real conversation outside the Idol bubble. We discussed music, careers, influences and overall goals. He reassured me that the show was not a make or break thing -- just another stepping stone on the path to a career. He said something along the lines of, ‘As long as you always better your craft, work hard, and put out music that you're proud of, you will be able to last.’ I'll take those words with me always. I have the upmost respect for Randy and am honored to call him a friend. … I'm excited to see what comes next, whether it be TV, film, or music…. I'm sure it will be nothing less than amazing if it's coming from 'The Dawg!'"
Nikki McKibbin (season one): "You would think that what I remember most about Randy Jackson is ‘Nikki, Nikki, Nikki, I love the shoes.’ But it's actually much deeper than that. Idol was brand new and none of us knew what to expect from the judges. RJ Helton had just finished singing “Lately” in the final group of the top 30. Simon called RJ a loser (among other things that were never aired and should never be repeated). As contestants, we all figured there would be a little drama within the judges panel but nothing like we witnessed with this fight, especially since we were so far along in the competition. Randy stood up for all of us, especially RJ. I've always been an open book, very blunt and sometimes honest to a fault, but never cruel. I really saw how amazingly compassionate and caring Randy was that day. He could have very well just gone along with what was being said but instead he took a stand. He stood up for us, and for that I will always have the deepest respect for him as a judge but more importantly as a man."
Phillip Phillips (season 11 winner): "Randy Jackson has been a valuable part of idol for 12 seasons. The advice he gave me was invaluable and I look forward to watching him continue to set a strong example in the music business. Thanks for everything, Randy."
Chris Richardson (season six): "Randy Jackson is an American icon. Dude is a legend in my mind. Hands down one of the coolest judges I know. The way he would praise you or constructively criticize contestants was very honest and genuine. He really did want for you to succeed, and wasn't afraid to tell you to step it up. I remember one night he told me I was ‘in it to win it.’ If he only knew his words would carry on far after the show had completed. I was in it to win it. Maybe I didn't win the show, but I’ve continued to work my ass off years after to establish a name in this business. So I look back on my journey on Idol, and I'm blessed to have been a part of it while Randy was there. So to you Randy, thank you for all the advice. Thank you for continuing to help push individuals to be better. And last but not least, thank you for making my ride on Idol memorable. Cheers!"
Anwar Robinson (season four): "My experience on Idol was a master class and Randy Jackson was one of the professors. I believe his knowledge and genuine desire for me and the other contestants to reach our full potential is something that made American Idol one of the greatest opportunities for aspiring music artists in America. I am a currently a music teacher and director. I give thanks to Randy as I incorporate much of his advice and guidance in my students. I am sure we have not seen the last of Randy Jackson."
Brandon Rogers (season six): "My favorite memory of Randy was during my season. I think it was top 20 or 16 week, and during the commercial break the audience and everyone got Randy to get up and take Rickey Minor's bass and jam with the band. It reminded everyone that he wasn't just ‘some guy’ up there on the judge dais -- he was actually an awesome musician who knew what he was talking about."
Chris Sligh (season six): "When you only make it to number 10 -- like I did -- the number of moments hanging with the judges is limited. But I remember running into Randy backstage top 12 week. That week, I'd re-arranged ‘Endless Love’ and though it'd received rave reviews throughout the week by other contestants, the producers and even Nigel [Lythgoe] and Ken [Warwick]. The judges had hated it. Plus, my wife had been in town for three days and I'd seen her a total of an hour and a half. I was frustrated, down and angry ... So, I run into Randy in the hall beside the stage at CBS studios and he stops, pulls me aside and quietly tells me, ‘Dawg, you took a chance and it didn't work out. You're still as good as anybody here. Now, make America see what all of us see.’ I apparently didn't make America see what they saw -- I went home two weeks later -- but I was always blown away that this incredibly famous, incredibly talented person cared enough to stop in a hallway to encourage me."
Vonzell Solomon (season four): "While on Idol,I met a beautiful 10-year-old girl from my hometown. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She flew to Los Angeles with her family to be at one of the live shows. Afterward, Randy, Paula and Simon spent quite a bit of time with her and her family, showing them love and support. At that moment, I realized they were real people with big hearts. Madison is now a three-time cancer survivor and thanks to Randy she has great memories to cherish forever. l love that he is so cool with the ‘dawg pound,’ yet at the same time is so warm and compassionate."
Ruben Studdard (season two winner): "Randy was always like a big brother to me while I was on the show. I talked with him about so many different things because we are both from the south. I remember how involved he was with me after the show, taking time to listen to the music that I was working on for my first album, Soulful, and giving great advice on how to deal with the many obstacles that arise in the industry. He always gave me great constructive criticism while I was on Idol and he knew how to make us laugh when the days got long. I'm sure everyone in that building will miss his presence. I wish him good luck on all of his future endeavors."
Trenyce (season two): "My best memory of Randy was after the show was over. Randy came out to our soundcheck for the tour. He heard me sing Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’ for the first time since the show and he said, ‘If you continue wowing crowds like you did me at sound check, your career will go far! Don't be afraid to be you on stage.’ I really appreciated that. … His seat could never really be filled -- he’s been there since the beginning. Best wishes to Randy."
Jasmine Trias (season three): "People always ask me, 'What are the judges really like?' What I love about Randy is that what you see on camera is exactly what you get off camera in person, too! His genuine factor is what makes him so endearing. If you're a friend or an acquaintance of Randy's, you're going to be called 'dawg,' so you better get used to it! He was real and down-to-earth, and generous with advice during my time on the show. I always appreciated his warmth and friendliness towards the contestants. He wanted us to improve each week and be the best we could be. Randy will be missed and will be hard to replace. It's a lottery to guess who will be on the season 13 judging panel, but I'm excited to see what happens next! I want to wish Randy all the best of luck in the future. I'm looking forward to seeing what he has planned next for his career. No doubt he's 'in it to win it!'"
Tim Urban (season nine): "For me, Randy brought a lot of industry experience to the panel which made his opinion worth really listening to. Even though he wasn't a big fan of mine on the show, I was glad he was on the panel and gave me feedback."
Erika Van Pelt (season 11): "I’ll always remember Randy announcing my name as a wildcard for Top 13. He was so cool about it. He seemed psyched for me."
Brooke White (season seven): "Without question, Randy Jackson is the judge who continues to care about the contestants beyond the Idol stage. When the show and tour are done and over and we are all left to ourselves to figure out what to do next, it's an overwhelming and confusing time. I'll never forget that day that I randomly bumped into Randy at the Guitar Center in Sherman Oaks, shortly after my elimination. He spent at least an hour talking to me, offering me his advice and resources. I was stunned by how nice he was! From that moment on, he was there for me, ready to help me make it in the real world. He helped me start my own record label, June Baby Records, introduced me to my management, connected me with an endorsement deal, spent a lot of his own time listening to my songs to help me shape my album High Hopes and Heartbreak and he helped me land my first acting gig. Beyond what Randy has done to help me in my music career, what has always impressed me is how personable and in the moment he is with everyone. He takes time to talk, listen, hug, take pictures and make people feel like they're seriously his best friend. He is not a 'celebrity' kind of celebrity. He is a walking teddy bear. Oh, and he smells amazing, and always has the best shoes. I'm gushing, but he's just the real deal. What more can I say about Randy 'the dawg' Jackson? Love that guy!"