It’s only been a few hours since the news broke that Amy Winehouse was found dead. I sit here feeling very sad, and kind of shocked even though I had been waiting for this moment for a really long time. So many thoughts and ideas swirling in my head at the moment..
It was my friend Manue who introduced me to Amy Winehouse. It was March of 2007 and I was perusing the racks of HMV and she said to me, “Have you heard that song? I don’t wanna go to rehab, no-no-no!” Not knowing what she was talking about (or knowing that she had fumbled the words), she took me by the hand to the listening booth and forced me to listen to this CD called Back To Black. I kept thinking “Isn’t that kinda like the name of that AC/DC album?” I put the headphones on and started listening.
What I heard stopped me in my tracks. Where was this soulful voice coming from this weird beehive white girl body? And she was British? I literally was sold in about 6 seconds of hearing Rehab. I grabbed the CD (so did Manue) and we bought it outright. It was the first time in a long while where an artist grabbed me within seconds of a song playing. (Those times come few and far between now, so I think about that moment and treasure it. Will it happen again?)
What followed was my absolute wearing out of my Back To Black CD. Not only did she have that voice, but she wrote all of the songs! A singer-songwriter! And the production by Mark Ronson was amazing. Every song felt like a Motown one, every one had soul and brought me to a retro 60s vibe filled universe that was warm and welcoming – but also had the attitude of a 2000 era artist.
I bled that music dry. I blogged about her right away entitling it “Who The Hell Is Amy Winehouse?” and talked about her to friends and family. I got people at work listening to her. When I love a record, I want everyone to love it. And she was that artist in 2007 for me. It got so obsessive for me that I had to take off songs of hers from my iPod because I was listening to it TOO MUCH. Work friends got me Frank, her debut album as a wedding present. Yep, she was definitely someone worth listening to.
Then, the tabloid reports began to come in that year. The drugs, the horrific performances, the weird marriage, the drugs, more bad performances, self-destruction. And suddenly, Amy Winehouse went from a huge talent to a running joke. And she became a sad, sick joke to me as well.
Grammys 2008 arrived and she swept most of her categories. I was happy- she was deserving of every one of those trophies. She gave a semi coherent performance. I remember Natalie Cole saying something that there shouldn’t recognition for people who are clearly self-destructive and have substance abuse problems. I did agree to some degree, but it didn’t change the fact that Amy and Mark created a modern 2000 classic record. If Woody Allen and Roman Polanski could still be seen for their work and not their behaviour, Amy could also be excused.
I think that I am not alone in the belief that a lot of people were waiting for this sad news to come through. Her public incidents of debauchery were outnumbering the good stuff that she was capable of doing. She had disappeared for a little while, and there were reports that she had cleaned up. This got me a little excited, thinking that perhaps new music was on the way. Those recent performances in Serbia last month where she was booed off the stage, however, showed me that she was up to her old tricks and that she wasn’t wanting to do this anymore. She wanted out, and we were her audience watching her slowly vanish.
So, what to say today? What to say of this sadness in my heart? Will her legacy, and her entrance into the “27 Club” with the likes of Cobain, Joplin, Moon, Morrison and Hendrix, last as long as these predecessors?
I say it is time to get those tracks back on my iPod and re-listen to those gems. Play it loudly. That’s what music is for – to remember, to understand and to be eternal.