Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

When you first heard the news that Amy Winehouse had died I bet you weren’t remotely surprised. And to me that says it all. Because when anyone dies at the incredibly young age of 27 it should be an utter shock. But Amy’s battle with drugs and alcohol and probably any other substance that comes in a container with a little skull and crossbones on it was so relentless and so public that no one needed a SPOILER ALERT to see this one coming.

Ironically, Amy joins Rock n’ Roll Heaven headliners Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Kurt Cobain – all 27 at the time of their deaths.

I don’t know the exact age but I remember reading somewhere that the life expectancy of any rock star is somewhere in the 50’s. Granted, they pack 90 years of living in those 50+ years but still. That’s waaaaay too young.

And it brings up the question – is it worth it? The fame, the girls, the money, the highs? For me, absolutely not. But that’s really easy for me to say because I had no shot whatsoever of becoming a rock star. When the Beatles first burst upon the scene and every kid scrambled to learn how to play the guitar I took the lazy route and tried to master the harmonica. (Hey, John Lennon played one. And so did Bob Dylan. Of course, they played other instruments and were also talented.)

But looking back, it was a blessing. Amy Winehouse was given an enormous gift, which proved to be a deadly curse. It’s easy to say she made a lifestyle choice but that’s not entirely fair. Without her extraordinary voice would she still have gone down the same path? I couldn’t say. I never met Amy Winehouse. With no music in her life perhaps she would have lived another seventy years happily selling handbags at Harrod’s. Or her demise might’ve been two years earlier.

One thing for certain though -- rock stardom takes its toll. The demands are high. Touring, recording, losing Grammys to Milli Vanilli. Some handle it better than others. Not everyone dies. Some go on to become AMERICAN IDOL judges or golfers (Alice Cooper). But others, like Amy Winehouse, are not so fortunate.

Now come the tributes, the shrines, candlelight vigils. Her CD’s will top the charts, seventeen unauthorized biographies will be available by next week (each claiming to be the real story, even the one that blames her death on corn syrup in baked goods), the E! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY will play on a continuous loop until the next rapper is gunned down, and the movie will be released next May. Talk about the part Lindsay Lohan was born to play.

Amy Winehouse crosses over from troubled, fucked-up rock singer to icon, martyr, legend.

I’m sorry but all of this makes it hard to mourn. I kind of hate admitting that but it's true. And that's almost as sad to me as her being only 27 and none of us being surprised.

50 comments:

john brown said...

On Twitter, I posted this: "I think this is a good time to lament all people who can't get out from under the grip of drugs, not just the famous ones."

Arthur Taylor said...

Ironic that you mentioned Milli Vanilli, Ken, since one of them also died young, of an overdose.

chuckwarn said...

How long before Amy tribute singers headline the county and state fair circuit?

Kate said...

What bothers me is how her work is lauded now and her early death romanticized with the "27 club" business, but the last few years were used to mock her addiction and illness. Is it too much work for people to be good to each other while we're alive?

Brian said...

Maybe she should have went to rehab?

Brian (different one) said...

It's sad, to be sure.

But. She's incredibly overrated, and it's sad that this is going to make her even (undeservedly) bigger.

Pamela Jaye said...

John - if this was Facebook I would LIKE that comment.

My first reaction was "who?"
Yup, I've been out of it since my ex-husband wouldn't let me sleep with the radio on, and I couldn't stand the silence when it shut off...

I've heard the name, but that's all. I guess she wasn't ruining her life enough to be a frequent story on ET. Oops.

Ken mentioned Rock Stars - I might add Child Stars. A lot of them don't make it either. Even those who are taught good values aren't totally unscathed. Did you hear Jay Osmond has written his autobiography? Not that I've read it, but I did read Donny's.

Phillip B said...

"Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death...Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old."

"Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy's incredible talent. Or Kurt's or Jimi's or Janis's, some people just get the affliction."

"Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call."

From Russell Brand...

Brian said...

Sorry, Ken, but I don't agree with you. I know your heart is in the right place, but the people who live under enormous daily pressures are the ones who work two or three blue-collar jobs trying to feed, clothe and house their families. THAT is pressure, not which zillion dollar record deal am I going to take next or which private jet should I buy. If people want to feel bad for someone, feel bad for the hard working regular moms and dads out there who are trying to cobble together a living and losing ground every day, but they don't quit and they don't indulge themselves in drugs, they can't afford to do that... and they will never have a fraction of the priveleges someone like Amy Winehouse had. Those are the people that I think we should feel for and also admire.

Bobomo said...

Brian - If you wait right here, I'll go see if I can find a local dignitary to bestow you with your medal of honor. It is truly heroic how you manage to carry around all those tired cliché's.

Brian said...

Gee, "Bobomo" is there any more tired cliche than "tired cliche"? I will say this for you though, you were able to make that little accent mark over the last "e" in cliche and I was not... so clearly, you are the better writer.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Clarke said...

Sorry to see her go so soon.

A friend of mine played with Janis Joplin in her prime. I see the news about Amy Winehouse dead and I think about Janis.

Tikabelle said...

Brian - What I don't understand is why I should only feel bad for one of the groups of people you're mentioning. That's patently absurd.

Expressing sadness for the death of a human being - especially the needless death of a human being - is a natural reaction, and your preaching about the American equivalent of starving children in China only shows your own lack of empathy for anyone in a situation not as privileged as our own.

And yes, I do mean that literally. If you can take the time to read Ken's blog and reply, then you are privileged, as am I.

Garth said...

I'm astonished and disturbed at people's reactions to instances like this.

It saddens me Ken that your train of thought leads you to imagine all the clamouring round to be done, and how this removes any sympathy - as if that was her intention! I'm sure you'll admit this is not a reflection of her.

Let's be clear, anyone with an addiction as severe as Amy Winehouse's, isn't a perpetual chase for the next hit, an Epicurean quest of self-indulgence.

It's a slow suicide.

Thomas said...

I have my own personal opinion on this matter. Obviously being that I am writing, isn't that special of me?

So Amy Winehouse died, yea we all get the undeniable truth. The fact of the whole situation is, if this was a black chick, it wouldn't trend on twitter. Her most famous and sought after song, was a biographical verse of her deciding to not go to rehab.

She had the ability to receive the help she needed, to fix the tainted life she created. Their are many people in the day we are in, that have no means to being able to treat the horrible demons that possess them. Yet, I am to feel bad about a woman who has more money than most of us will ever see in a lifetime.

What happened to all of those 92 civilians in Oslo, Norway that tragically died because of a human who was brilliant beyond measure, but clinically insane. They were on the back burned for a woman who decided her own death. Yet they had no choice in whether they wanted to live or not.

I understand empathy is in the eyes of the beholder, but to be saddened for someone who when given help, brushed it away for another toke on the pipe?

Also, when people are comparing this woman to Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. The era they lived in was prevalent for the use of drugs. Yet Amy Winehouse in an era when the authorities try their heart out to crack down on such extra-curricular activities?

I guess I just do not see the argument. Yes people are sad, yes people will grieve. But for me personally, I think there are more pressing issues to be spoken of, instead of this woman who had one impressionable song?

Anonymous said...

"Her battle with drugs and alcohol"

What battle? More like total surrender.

Mac said...

@Thomas

I'm not sure where you get the idea that Anders Breivik was "brilliant beyond measure," he was a thirty-two year-old man who still lived with his mother.
He was qualified in small business administration, which is perfectly respectable but not indicative of some intellectual brilliance. Then he worked as a diplomat, which you can't do if you're dumb, but you don't need to be exceptional either.
Losing someone before their time is nothing to do with how rich or poor they were, but how much you loved them, and they loved you. Amy Winehouse's parents feel no less pain than the Norwegian teenagers parents feel. It's not an either/or situation. A loss is a loss.
Apologies if I've picked you up wrong, but the next waste of skin who wants to imitate Breivik is looking at how Breivik is perceived, and wanting some of the same.

Harley Davidson said...

"Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death."

Russell missed one....sobriety! If you're lucky and work hard at at, it's a wonderful way to live.

Mark said...

She was clearly responsible for a lot of bad decisions. I couldn't defend any of that. But just the same, she must have been in a lot of pain to carry on the way she did.

Kate, it isn't only being good to each other that's too much work. A lot of the time, we can't even manage to leave people alone and stay out of their way, even when it would be the easiest thing to do as well as the kindest.

A reminder from Kurt Vonnegut: "There's only one rule that I know of, babies--God damn it, you've got to be kind."

KXB said...
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KXB said...

One-album wonder...

RCP said...

Having friends and family members who've dealt with drug and alcohol addictions, I know how incredibly frustrating and infuriating it can be to see somebody self-destruct. It's easy at times to say "Just snap out of it!" - but the plain fact is that some are able to, others can't or won't.

Mike McCann said...

Sometimes stardom extracts an awful price from a creative person who's not emotionally equipped to deal with the pressure of fame.
You've likely seen it among actors you've worked with -- we've both seen it with talented broadcasters who have difficulty coping with what's expected besides their on-air performance.
We're all a bit selfish here -- we hurt because of Amy's unfulfilled potential. Unlike Janis Joplin, she didn't leave a rich, deep legacy from her all-too-short (and impaired) years. Two albums and a few extra tracks.
She might have been really special -- weaving a '60s musicality into the harsher lyrics of this century. Now, sadly, we'll never know.

Marie said...

I don't know if anyone summed it up as well as Russel Brand in The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jul/24/russell-brand-amy-winehouse-woman

Anonymous said...

To be or NOT to be...is ALWAYS A CLEAR CHOICE!...LATER SAID ALWAYS A WINO TO COMMON SENCE...

jbryant said...

Wow, some of you guys -- whatever happened to "walk a mile in my shoes"? Sick people deserve compassion whether they have a dime in their pocket or a million in the bank. Sure, they may choose to ingest the means of their self-destruction, but they don't choose the propensity for addiction, which is often caused or exacerbated by a physical or mental condition.

As for coping with pressures, it's highly unlikely that the only problems Winehouse had involved record deals and private jets. There are different levels of pressure, and each individual deals with them as best he can. Surely at this late date we all realize that money can't cure your ills.

Brian, I too admire people who work three jobs to support their families. But if one of them does give up and turn to drugs, do I have to retract my compassion? Or do they get a pass because I find their problems more relatable?

Maybe I read "Richard Cory" at an impressionable age or something! I know the media makes it easy to loathe celebs who squander their good fortune and burn out in the spotlight, and we're all susceptible to schadenfreude, but people are people, you know?

RJ Battles said...

Tikabelle, that was a great reply. I agree completely.

I can't understand all the bitterness towards Amy Winehouse.

I didn't follow Amy Winehouse's career very closely, but from hearing her songs and seeing her on TV it was pretty clear that shewas basically a kind decent person.

So I can't understand the bitterness.

KXB, how many successful albums did you put out in your 20s?

And Brian, yes she made some bad choices. A lot of people make bad choices. Some people chose to drink and do drugs, and some people chose to have children that they can barely afford to support.

I get the feeling that Brian and Thomas are motivated by jealousy- they're fixated on "private jets", "zillion dollar record deals", and "more money than most of us will ever see in a lifetime".
It must suck that a 27 year old woman in the grip of a downward spiral of drug addiction so severe that it eventually killed her was able to be more financially successful than they are.

YEKIMI said...

Poor Amy...Now she's as dead as her career.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Murdoch must be kicking himself for closing News of the World. His minions could be hacking her phone as we speak. In fact, they probably are.

buy l arganine said...

She is such a big lost in the industry. RIP amy.

In a position to know said...

To be in the grip of any drug is a sad, sad thing, but ultimately it is the will of the individual who either overcomes their addiction or yields to it. To me the sad thing is that Ms. Winehouse, for all her talent, is no different than the homeless, hopeless man or woman in the alley who deals with (and succumbs to) the same demons daily, yet society will mourn her as a "talented yet tortured soul" while the crack addict on skid row is overlooked and forgotten. We are ALL God's children whether we've sold a million records or not. And God loves us all equally.

Rachel said...

It's been said, but must be reiterated....
Money does not take pressures away nor does it cure addiction. Addiction is the same whether you're rich, poor or in between and whether you're famous or not.
It's tragic when anyone loses their life.

Pamela Jaye said...

Well, at the very least, we've all found something new to argue about. Cause, after all, isn't that what the internet is for?

(I've seen discussions of the weather, on the internet, turn into arguments.)

I don't know. I have to watch this ep of Mad Men and get it back to the library.

At least Robert Downey Jr. finally kicked it. I wish he'd done it before screwing my favorite show, but I knew that was coming, when David E Kelley signed him. :-( (I'm a pessimist)

I suppose we could hope Charlie Sheen was paying attention, but really, sadly, I just don't care.
(I'm going to pay for this, I know - and not from having you guys yell at me).

Loveless Linda said...

"Died to soon." What the fuck does that mean anyway? We die when we die, not a second before, not a second after.

Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade somebody--more than one person per second--dies. And we don't even notice. What makes a famous person's death anymore important?

I'll start caring about the famous people dying, when they start coming to the "Nobody's" funerals.

jbryant said...

Loveless Linda: Good point. We should definitely reserve compassion for any dead celebs who never bothered to attend the funerals of random unknown people.

No one says a famous person's death is "more important." But it's more newsworthy because famous people are, you know, famous. Do you think the news organizations should refuse to report the deaths of celebrity screw-ups or something?

Anonymous said...

Life is precious no matter what, your report is good although Amy is not to the hights of Jimi, Janis or Jim.

The end of your report sound a little cold until I realize it's kind of like your anger coming through, upset that such a young talent has to end with self distraction unneccesarely.

GB

Lou

Anonymous said...

sorry to to hear or amy winehouse death.drugs and alcohol just do not mix. just another way of a slow suicide. look what happen to michael jackson, drugs and the wrong doctor. What a Bomber!

BT said...

sorry to hear of amy winehouse death. drugs and alcohol just don't mix. another talented artist gone too soon. look what happen to micheal jackson. drugs and the wrong doctor. What a Bomber! BT

Amy S. said...

How can you continue to bash someone that isn't even alive. Let her rest in peace. Coming over an addiction is not as easy as people think. I drank and did drugs from the age of 15 until 24. Even tried to commit suicide. You NEVER know what a person is going through until you've been in their shoes. REAL Amy Winehouse fans would know that she was very depressed. Her songs tell it all. Yes, before she was popular in the US she was very confident and strong. Something happened to take that away from her. Amy did not want help if she did she would have went to rehab. Maybe she felt like she would be better off dead. I know how that feeling is, and when the drugs are so good you don't want to stop. My son is what changed my life around.. Like Amy Winehouse said in her Frank album.... I can't help you.. if you won't help yourself.....
You cant help someone if they don't want to be helped!! Instead of taking about the mistakes she made. Embrace the music she made!!! GOD BLESS

Luh said...

RIP, Amy.

Luh said...

Actually I have to disagree on the you can't help somebody that doesn't want to be helped. When people I have known are in the throes of crack addiction, they don't know what is up or down. They can die in their confusion. I have mandated someone to rehab and even thought it took more than one try, this person is still alive today and has almost 4 years of sobriety. It doesn't always work but waiting around for somebody to figure out they are an addict doesn't always work either.

heathrow hotels said...

May her poor tortured soul rest in peace

Liliputput said...

I was surprised... shocked, sad, speechless.
Because death is death, even when it has been somehow predictable.

And then when it is a young, gorgeous, talented girl, that gave us so much and had so much more to give... it's just beyond sad. I was hoping for her to get better till the last moment. Hope she is somewhere happy now, but I will miss her music forever... what a voice this was!

Andhiv said...

It's sad, to be sure.

But. She's incredibly overrated, and it's sad that this is going to make her even (undeservedly) bigger.

emef said...

ironic

Johnny Walker said...

Very sad, especially for someone so young.

Matt Patton said...

I suspect that even if Amy Winehouse hadn't become a singer or songwriter, she would have been involved in show business--she appeared as an extra in the last season of a sketch show called The Fast Show back in 1997 or so, when she was all of 13 years old. Fortunately, her musical talent meant that she didn't have to spend large chunks of her short life selling handbags in Harrod's or Marks and Spencer's or ringing up groceries at whatever the big supermarket chain is in England . . .

Also, she may have had mental health issues that nobody knew about--more than a few musicians, more than a few non-musicians has self-medicated to battle depression or bipolar disorder (one of the best, not all that well known, Graham Bond, battled the latter, mostly with heroin, and wound up throwing himself under a train at age 37).

Finally, there's no romantic connection between drugs or booze and creativity. As an article in The New Republic noted yesterday, plenty of talented, vital people have gone to rehab and come out as vital and talented as ever. It's a matter of whether you can overcome or survive the addiction. Not everybody can, alas . . .

Anonymous said...

Amy Winehouse is someone I was acquainted with via a concert on TV I was privileged to accidentally view...I loved it....she was so original in every way....GOD I wish she was still with us....I finally found a musical style I could identify with, now its gone! She died WAY too soon, but one thing I believe is that she is with a higher power and for her that is ultimate peace. Why to the excellent ones die young!

Wanda said...

Amy was a new wave of music...Loved her style, her beauty, and originality....I pray to God someone will come along and at least come close to her style and sound!