Tragic. Pathetic. Unnecessary. Inevitable. More or less all I can do is sigh. We can have the conversation about substance abusers, destructive behavioral patterns and long-term consequences from internal damage. So why am I writing about Amy Winehouse dying at the age of 27?
I’m not exactly sure, but somewhere lies not just a typical cautionary tale. We got the Just Say No memo. Amy was a talent, but so are many people. She joins the 27 Club of dead musicians like Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. Nor am I fond of the aspects of cultural appropriation of African-American music traditions or being lauded for using them as a signature sound. When it comes to fame, some things can’t be controlled.
She was a great songwriter, whose lyrics touched me. She had a distinctive way of chronicling the experiences of younger women in a way that isn’t expressed in pop culture today. If you noticed the destructive messiness she fully displayed only emphasized how far off the mark she fell. She wasn’t a guy writing for a female artist — she was a woman speaking intelligibly to other women about us.
I really liked the Frank-era Winehouse, her debut release from 2003 when she wasn’t well-known outside the UK. She was at her peak and little did we know her career would explode as her personal life imploded.
By the time Back To Black was released in 2007, whatever internal conflicts she had, had taken over. I found her choice to record and promote a song where she defiantly refused to seek professional help appalling. I was further incensed by how catchy Rehab is. She was gleefully cheering her own destruction!
The sad thing is, no one can save you when you want to self-destruct. Or limit yourself. Or not have a vision for your success.
The other troubling aspect, was in how there seemed to be this rush to cash in on Amy’s fame quickly as if people were anticipating her downfall. It was if the assumption was that drama = record sales. Not to mention there’s a huge interest in promoting the White Girl In Peril meme.
We walk a fine line when we support the idea that men and women are exactly the same. It denies our uniqueness and leaves us less protected. Too much self focus is also dangerous as it interferes with our ability to bond and stay connected with each other.
I have no idea what was going on in her life, but Amy was scheduled to perform at the Blue Note in NYC this evening. Some of our most creative are also very sensitive and troubled. People who feel like outsiders might make some of the biggest contributions, but only if they can get out of their own way first. She may have been making necessary changes and had her mistakes catch up to her. It’s far too easy to be either overly sympathetic or write people off completely.
I leave you with one of my favorites, F Me Pumps. This song is a warning to women about the costs associated with living our ‘modern’ lifestyle, but I think the message goes over too many heads. It deserves a thorough listen and analysis.