Sunday, July 24, 2011

On Amy Winehouse

I logged online to check my bank account when I noticed the Yahoo headline, “Amy Winehouse found dead.” The headline didn’t necessarily burn itself into my mind, but the by-line of “Singer was 27” did.

Another death at 27. That mythical number that certainly must have some kind of metaphysical property to attract itself to performers.

And good ones at that.

Regardless of what you think about Amy Winehouse, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of hatred you can find in the comment section of the Yahoo article where I learned of her passing. For every post of genuine sadness, there were five-times the amount of vicious ones, chastising people for liking Winehouse or simply derailing the singer as a worthless junkie.

This is one of the reasons why I go to church every week. I see people talking like this and feel defeated.

And I am seeing this more and more.

There just seems to be an inordinate amount of mean people in this world, or at least its reasonable facsimile: the internet. They seem so angry that even a moment of grief can’t stop them from hurling expletives.

Now I see our leaders doing the same thing. They tap into our more basic emotions and encourage their constituents to avoid self-censorship and speak freely regardless of the impact. All morals and respect our encouraged to fly out the window, replaced by harsh tones, as if life isn’t harsh enough already.

What the fuck?

Something gave Winehouse a special gift. It was obvious and it was of such greatness that we were looking forward to many years of hearing how this blessing would unfold.

The thing was, by album number two, we were already hearing how troubled she was even with such an enviable talent. The saddest thing now is realizing that we’d only get two albums that demonstrated how good she was, so quickly, and that we’d never really get a chance at hearing all of those possibilities.

Did we really want to? Didn’t we all get a kick at the defiance of “Rehab” even when we saw that she needed it? Didn’t the press always print each photo of her decline with a bit of a grin? Didn’t we click those YouTube videos just to check in to see how far she’d fallen and watch, mouths open, as the same girl who reminded us “You know I’m no good” stumble into an act that couldn’t even formulate words.

She needed our help, and we failed her. We turned her into a flawed, beehived caricature that will reach martyred status now that she’s gone. We’ll see her poster or tattoo on some misunderstood girl’s arm, right next to Marilyn’s or Billie Holiday’s. Her best work, Back To Black, will become a cautionary suicide note, causing other generations to ponder, “Why didn’t anyone step in to help! It’s all right here!”

I remember thinking the same thing about Cobain, “Why didn’t anyone help?” and it’s a question worth asking because at least it’s asking “How could we have prolonged her life” instead of the one that so many keep callously asking “Why does her death even matter?”

It matters because every death should matter to some extent, and the real question should be “Why aren’t we allowed to care about each other anymore?” And if I can’t relate to or understand the impact on someone else who has passed, at least I should have enough respect to let those who did feel the impact to grieve and mourn to the extent that they need.

The fact is that we will all make poor decisions in our life and the hope is that we’ll grow from them. Along the way, we’d like to have some amount of support..Just in case.

It seems that Winehouse-even with all of her fame and success-didn’t have that kind of support around her. It’s hard to understand that, particularly when you hear Back To Black or Frank and realize how unique and special her talents were. You automatically want to put your arm around her and say, “Stay alive! You were given a rare gift to bring hope to so many!” but it appears that this message never got through to her.

Instead, we’re left with vultures who seek nothing more than to exploit grief and attack those who wish to mourn a life more worthwhile than their own.

And we’re also left with one life-changing album, one that foreshadows her death of course, but one that also gave us that obligator document of what happens when addiction gets the best of you, recording moments before it actually does.

And from the time it was released, it was then just a five-year ride of watching it take over and destroy the life of one of this century’s most talented and promising talents.


Kiko Jones said...

I was not a fan but I was nonetheless saddened by Ms. Winehouse's death. Why? Once again, another artist was seen as only a cash cow by her handlers and trotted out, regardless of their mental and physical condition--as Winehouse was during the months leading up to her death--just to feed the greedy beast.

And the vitriol directed her way in death is enough to lose all faith in our fellow men and women. I mean, a troubled soul passed away; you don't have to join in on the posthumous praise chorus but have some fucking respect for the dead. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I stopped by on the way to somewhere to find some Icicle Works info, noticed this post and thought I'd add my own voice. I read your review of Back to Black and your opinions about her lifestyle with complete agreement and, like you, I saw the train-wreck coming so clearly, as did most people, I would think.

Seeing this post strongly reminded me of my own feelings back then. It's a very strange feeling to be both surprised and not surprised at the same moment - the same duality you can feel when someone finally dies after a long illness.

I was fortunate not to read any hate mail about her life/style, I stuck to the official obits and avoided the remarks because, like you, I've seen enough of the web to know what'll be said in advance. Wish I could have heard that 4th or 5th album, the one where she looks back on her early years and tells it like it is, and convinces people not to head the same damned way.

Thanks for the posting, she is worth remembering.

Greetings from England, where the tabloids know no shame.