A Strange But Beautiful Flower Has Died
When Amy Winehouse died of an overdose at such a young age, I felt worse about her death than I expected to. She’s not someone I listen to all the time. But the first time I heard her, it only took a few seconds before I realized that hers was one of the most powerful and unique voices anywhere. It was all the more remarkable for issuing from her slight, often maltreated body.
I’ll confess that at times when hearing about her more wayward antics, I would sometimes judgmentally shake my head (or even chuckle) and think that someone should do an intervention. But it’s never that simple, as any addict will tell you.
I was thinking about how badly I felt when I heard the news. I do like an underdog, and she certainly didn’t make it based on looks. She created her own bizarre style, and despite the fact that my dress style would never be called edgy, I enjoyed her sartorial sorties just as I enjoy Lady Gaga’s insane getups. I was also hoping that she would pull it together, that she was still young enough to recover. It’s how many of us feel about addicts we see from a distance or in our own family. The thought of losing a very talented daughter with a very promising life ahead of her is singularly horrible. I think many of us can think of someone who is troubled, yet impervious to help and unable to care for themselves.
Will Anyone Like Her Pass This Way Again?
Reality talent shows are a mixed blessing. I find the crop of singers from American Idol to be tiresome (with the exception of the Pants On The Ground guy), even the ones with good pipes. They’re all filtered through those particular judges, so even though there is an audience voting component, the contestants that are approved by the gatekeepers are skilled, but pretty conventional. I love Christina Aguilera, but how many clones of her do we really need? Even Idol winners are using autotune on their recordings, which is just sad. Extreme cheapness at work, and if I were a great singer, I’d be embarrassed to use it. Pop radio, at least where I live, consists almost entirely of autotuned, freeze-dried Clearchannel dreck. I’m very thankful for the Internet, which allows me to find music of quality and variety.
Amy was the opposite of this – just a very raw, pure voice with a great band and arrangements, no slick tricks at all, and I have the utmost respect for that. It’s sad that you may never hear anyone like that anymore on pop radio. Fortunately, there will always be people with raw talent, and instead of looking for it on the pop charts, it must be actively sought out. Music is becoming more local all the time. Sure, there are a few people making lots of money, and they motivate the rabidly excited reality-show contestants. But for the 99.9 percent of us who don’t win contests, musical success will be modest and local.
Though there are a number of excellent young female soul singers in Britain these days, Amy was a one-off. Her smoky, soulful wail was singularly emotional and beautiful, authentic and real without being harsh.
A Surprising Tribute from Russell Brand
If you’ve heard Russell Brand on a talk show, you’ll know that he is one of the wackiest, funniest, most manic guys in the entertainment industry. But he has a past of addiction, and is certainly well aware of all the horrors and self-deceptions that go along with that. Fortunately, he recovered, has been clean for a number of years, and has lived to tell the tale. It’s always very interesting to me when someone with a usually wild personality turns around and shows a reflective side. Chris Rock also comes to mind. Brand lived in the same neighborhood as Amy, and his tribute to Amy is one of the most touching and beautiful things I’ve read anytime recently. Apart from the accolades given in the unique Brand style, it gives a rare glimpse into the mindset of people suffering from similar demons for those of us who haven’t experienced it firsthand. What he described was more revealing than dozens of articles I’d read about addiction. I was not aware of how close he came to being consumed in the same flame himself.
Thanks for the beauty you created, Amy. It’s terrible that you’re gone, and so many of us miss you.