Behind Ed Sheeran’s beaming smile is pain, as he is coping with the loss of his good friend and music mogul Jamal Edwards.
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Disney+ documentary, Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All, released on May 3 – displays the 32-year-old superstar experiencing his first encounter with grief. The four-part series is broken down into episodes titled “Love,” “Loss,” “Focus,” and “Balance.”
Within the second installment, Sheeran is brought to tears thinking about the death of Edwards. The entertainment executive and YouTube star died in February of 2022 from a heart arrhythmia after taking recreational drugs. He was 31.
Sheeran credits his friend for launching his career, as he appeared on Edwards’ SPTV YouTube channel in 2006. The devastating news was delivered to the singer/songwriter the day after his wife, Cherry Seaborn, was diagnosed with cancer.
“I had friends in school whose parents passed when they were 14,” explained Sheeran in the show. “And I look back like, ‘That’s when you become an adult.’ I became an adult recently because grief instantly ends your youth.”
The “Eyes Closed” singer acknowledged that grief is universal, but pointed out that it doesn’t make the process easier.
“It’s all pure sadness. It’s all horrible. I know everyone goes through it, I know that it’s like a common thing that you can’t avoid,” he noted, before reflecting on the funeral service. “This is the first time you’re there, someone hands you a shovel, and suddenly you’re putting dirt on your mate’s grave. And it feels so weird. The funeral was like 30 people, but he knows like 10,000 people.”
Nearly six months after the burial, the platinum-selling artist joined Edwards’ family for a BBQ to celebrate his first heavenly birthday. Within the episode, the vocalist kept his composure – raising a drink in Edwards’ honor and mingling with his loved ones. In the middle of the party, he nonchalantly removes himself to shed a tear in the privacy of his car.
“I feel so lost in there,” he said with a frog in his throat. “This is his first birthday that he hasn’t been here. This is his first cookout that he hasn’t been here. He died six months ago and it’s still very raw. It’s very real. His grave…we go past it a lot. It just feels so weird that he’s in amongst loads of people he didn’t know.”
In the final episode, Sheeren musters up the courage to get back to the road. When he returned to the spotlight, he thought about Edwards “the whole time.” He said that he was very close to crying on stage.
“I was thinking, I don’t want to cry in front of 78,000 people, and I found myself really close at times,” he declared. “It’s just mad. It’s just like straight back to it. Fly home, go and do something really intense, and then straight back to it; the show must go on.”
The sequence of events involving Edwards, his wife, and a copyright infringement lawsuit over his No.1 hit “Shape Of You” caught up with the singer. He previously told Rolling Stone that he fell into a downward spiral and contemplated taking his own life.
“I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore and I have had that throughout my life,” shared Sheeran. “You’re under the waves drowning. You’re just sort of in this thang. And you can’t get out of it. Selfish…especially as a father. I feel really embarrassed about it.”
Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All is available to stream on Disney+. The crooner is slated to release his much-anticipated album, – (Subtract), on May 5 via Atlantic Records.
(Photo: Dan Martensen *Atlantic Records)