Amy Winehouse had a lot of problems in her short life. (Watch the film Amy for all the tragic details.) Not least of those was her absolute devotion to a man who was little more than a crackhead and petty criminal. In the years of … Continue reading Some Unholy War
They did make her go to rehab, but by then it was too late. Making her fame out of not going to rehab was the worst thing that could have happened to Amy Winehouse. She just wanted to be a jazz singer. Instead she became … Continue reading Rehab
The irony is knee deep here, sadly. Amy Winehouse didn’t live to see this song’s release; it’s a leftover from the sessions for her first album. Perhaps, when she recorded it, she may have really believed in the song’s faith that love will inevitably carry … Continue reading Our Day Will Come
If you haven’t seen it already, I heartily recommend the film Amy. The documentary shows a side of the late Amy Winehouse that may have been overshadowed by the sordid circumstances of her final days. Namely, her incredible talent, her wit, and the vulnerability that … Continue reading October Song
“What kind of fuckery is this?” What a legendary line. Only Amy Winehouse could deliver such profanity with so much panache. According to every source on web, Winehouse wrote this withering-yet-affectionate torch song about her friend Nasir Jones, better known to the world as Nas, the acclaimed hip-hop artist. Winehouse was a big Nas fan, and even sampled one of his songs on her first album. After she became well known, they met and became friends. I have no idea if the two were ever romantically involved; I’m pretty sure their friendship developed whilst both were married to other people. Nas and Amy shared the same birthday, a fact she references. Although Amy calls Nas her ‘best black Jew’, as far as I know, he is not Jewish, though he has publicly spoken out against anti-semitism. There’s also no record I could find of any Slick Rick-related incidents. Whatever that story was, it hasn’t come out yet. It still may, though. Nas has confirmed that the song is totally all about him, so maybe at some point he’ll share the story of what happened the day of the Slick Rick gig.
For Amy Winehouse, life was a losing game. Her inability to thrive in the vortex of fame is one of the great tragedies of modern pop culture. And yet she stands, on the strength of two albums, as a rebuke to anyone who’d argue that the last two decades haven’t produced any artists who deserve to be remembered as classic. Winehouse made a lasting contribution to a long-lived and timeless genre; music to weep to. She was a torch singer who put every shard of her cracked-up soul into her songs. How many times, since 2006, have I turned in bad times to Amy Winehouse and her declarations of heartache? So, so many.
Amy Winehouse still makes me sad. In the sense that her untimely death was such a waste. The fact that she flamed out so fast and hard after only two albums, the way her personal problems became an object of ghoulish entertainment, everything about what happened to her is a tragedy. And it almost feels like we’re the ones who let her down, as fans, as society, as a culture. She was a talented, troubled person, and we collectively decided to value her troubled behavior over her talents. Yes, by dying young, she assured herself a place among the great dead rock stars, the legendary status of the gone too soon. And it’s also true that she herself built an image based in part on being troubled, depressed, a heavy drinker, a druggie, and all those wild rock star things. Except, of course, those aren’t just rock star things, those are things everyone at times has to deal with, and the way Winehouse expressed her experience of dealing with those things was so honest and easy to relate to. She sang about perfectly normal things, like suffering in love, and her image as someone who dealt with love suffering by getting drunk a lot was a perfectly relatable one. But it was made into a larger than life rock star image by the media, and it became something she had to live up to. Every time she went out and got drunk, it was in the news, and not only that, it was portrayed as some sort of manifest destiny. It got to the point where no one cared about the music anymore, it was all about watching the train wreck. It might be a stretch to blame her inability to get clean on the tabloids, but it there was always a creepy sense that the coverage was meant to encourage her not to do better but to act worse. It seems like she was under tremendous pressure to be Amy the fuckup instead of Amy the musician. Recovery is always a hard battle, and it’s traditionally been a very private one. People like to hide their problems, and recovery from addiction has always been seen as something to be swept under the rug, so to speak. Partly because addiction is seen as shameful, and partly because it’s a problem with a high social component and getting away from social pressure can be integral to successfully getting clean. When people, stars or not, go to rehab or otherwise fight addiction, it’s customary to give them a respectful amount of space to do so, or so it’s usually been. To undergo a battle with addiction in the public eye, with the weight of public opinion on your back, and to be exposed to a stream of feedback composed of cruel insults and openly rooting for you to fail; that must be a circle of hell beyond even the one most addicts experience. This predatory new system of celebrity media, devoted to 24 hour ‘news updates’ i.e. gossip, stalking and harassment, is exploitative and trashy at best, and at worst, as we see in this case, literally life destroying. And we can’t pretend that we, as consumers, aren’t part of the problem. It’s hard not to be fascinated by others misfortunes, and that’s human nature, but a media culture built on voyeurism and schadenfreude isn’t healthy and it makes for a very sick relationship between the famous and the fans. The way we all watched Amy Winehouse kill herself before our eyes, when she should have been left alone for as long as it took her to get healthy, is shameful. Amy Winehouse was sick, she was an addict, and she was unable to perform or record new music because of it, but we demanded that she continue to entertain us, one way or another, because we now demand constant availability from our stars, and she entertained us by dying, slowly, miserably and in public.
(photo: The Sky Above Ablaze)