Merrell Jackson

When I was a teenager doing theatre in high school, a friend introduced me to the musical Godspell. We listened to the LP record of the Broadway production and watched the 1973 movie on TV.  Years later, I got the movie on tape and then replaced it with a DVD. Even though it’s not a perfect musical or movie, it has a special place in my heart. Since 2001, the movie has had an added poignancy, since part of a dance number (All For The Best) was filmed on the roof of one of the Twin Towers. The building was still under construction at the time.

I spent years wondering what happened to my favorite cast member, Merrell Jackson. Eventually, the internet provided me with the heartbreaking answer. Merrell Jackson died in 1991 at the age of 38.  I don’t know any details, and at this time, his tribute site has little biographical information. Godspell was Jackson’s only movie, but it’s enough. Every time I watch his performance, I can’t help falling in love with him all over again.  With his big hair, lean frame, beautiful voice, and a smile that’s both shy and winning, Jackson lights up the screen. He was the youngest member of the cast of ten, but he wasn’t the first one to pass away. Jeffrey Mylett died in 1986, and since Jackson’s death, both David Haskell and Lynne Thigpen have left us.

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The DVD of Godspell from 2000 could use a quality upgrade, and the “widescreen” side is not truly widescreen; it simply zooms in and chops off the bottom portion of the image to create a wide picture.  I don’t know if the streaming version through Amazon is any better. I almost overlooked the mp3 download of Merrell Jackson singing All Good Gifts at Amazon, because it is bundled together with the original Broadway soundtrack under the title Godspell (The 40th Anniversary Celebration). I’m happy to be listening to this song now, as I remember Merrell Jackson.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tracy on February 22, 2015 at 10:14 am

    FYI: The link you have for his tribute site does not take you to the home page. Might wanna fix that. Also, his tribute site has a lot of information about him, and is verified by members of his family.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Anonymous on June 4, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Just rented this and he’s beautiful. Almost had that hot quality when you see mixed people and know exactly what the parents saw in each other. Friendly, lean, tall, beautiful smile. He’s so hot and so innocent that I wouldn’t doubt AIDS, but again this is unconfirmed.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Torry on January 7, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I, too, fell in love with “Godspell” when I first saw the movie, and especially with the beautiful Merrell Jackson! I got a total crush on him from the moment I saw him. One year when my best friend was visiting from Chicago, we were in my car listening to the radio, and one of the songs from “Godspell” came on; I think it was “Day By Day”. I said something like, “That’s from “Godspell”; I have a crush on one of the actors in it, Merrell Jackson. My friend told me, he lives in my building; he rents an apartment from us. I thought he was kidding me. I was totally gobsmacked! I probably asked him 5 times if he was kidding. He swore it was true. Well, I found out he wasn’t kidding when I visited him in Chicago and he introduced me to Merrell! We didn’t get to talk long because Merrell had something to do, plus I am shy meeting people and I end up tongue-tied. But at least I did get to meet him before he died. I was so sad to learn that. And I believe my friend total me that it was indeed AIDS that took Merrell.

    SO many people taken so young from that dreadful disease, including my high school boyfriend. I didn’t know David Haskell had died also till I read it here. I remember him in “Santa Barbara”. And yes, now when I watch this movie I get that sad feeling when I see them on the roof of one of the Twin Towers. I went to the Towers for a drink the day I was married. Living in NY, the Towers were just part of the landscape like the Empire State Bldg.; something you just take for granted as always being there. We moved before the Towers came down; husband (a native NYer) commented how strange it must have been afterward to look downtown and NOT see the Towers there.

    Thanks for putting up this site! Nice to know someone felt about Merrell as I did (do.) Now when I see the movie again it will be bitttersweet knowing that Merrell, David, Lynne, Jeffrey, and the Towers are all no longer with us.

    Reply

    • How wonderful that you had the opportunity to meet Merrill Jackson. Thank you for sharing your encounter. I understand about getting tongue-tied when meeting people–it’s happened to me often enough. You might want to also leave a comment at Merrill Jackson’s tribute site, since it has a guestbook.

      My first trip to New York was in May 2002, so I never saw the Twin Towers. Last year I watched The Wire with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I almost got sick when he was out on the wire between the towers. Even knowing it was all done digitally didn’t help my queasiness!

      Time to watch Godspell again…

      Reply

      • Posted by Torry on January 13, 2017 at 11:17 am

        Ha! I get queasy watching anyone doing something with heights, especially rock or mountain climbing. Even if it is digital! I feel like I’m up there doing it myself (which I NEVER would be. I can’t get past the second rung on a ladder.)

        Reply

  4. Posted by Torry on January 7, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Btw, when I watch some of the many things Victor Garber is/has been in (currently look at “DC Legends of Tomorrow”) I often think of him as Jesus. Just the other day I told husband that it’s strange to think that’s the same guy. I had up a picture of Victor as Jesus, as well as a current picture, and I put my hand around his big afro to see just his face; THEN I could see the similarity in pictures (though Victor was much skinnier back then.) He still has those beautiful dark eyes.

    Reply

    • I know what you mean about Victor Garber. I’ve followed him over the years, enjoying his work and marveling at the length of his career. Titanic, Argo, a hundred other things, and now Legends of Tomorrow. (I watch The Flash regularly, but I haven’t succumbed to the other superhero shows on TV.) Wouldn’t it be great if a talk show did a Godspell reunion of the surviving cast? We can only hope.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Torry on January 13, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Loved seeing him in “Titanic” (what a great movie, though it made me absolutely sob for many reasons. I had to go out the back exit of the theatre so I wouldn’t embarrass myself.) He looked SO much like the real guy he played (Thomas Andrews.)

    Reply

    • The first internet fan group I ever joined was for Ioan Gruffudd, who had a small role in Titanic. Our leader had her computer programmed so that her error ‘tone’ was Gruffudd’s big line from the end of the movie, “Is anybody alive out there?” Makes me laugh even now. Titanic is one movie that seriously needed that new “bathroom app” that tells you best times during a film to take a potty break. And you’re so right about Victor Garber!

      Reply

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