Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse

Addiction is an evil and hideous disease, it's heartbreaking to see someone so young and talented fall victim to this curse. Amy Winehouse, was a unique talent, often the subject of ridicule and derision, but her vocal talent can't be denied. Amy had a polarizing effect on people, you either loved or hated her. It's sad, any death from drug abuse is sad, she was ill, I think her celebrity status kept people from realizing that. 

Without a doubt, Amy Winehouse was a slow motion train wreck, that however, didn't make her any less human. Knowing that she was dead woman walking didn't lessen the pain felt by her family and fans when she died. Amy made many bad choices, but dying the day after the bombing and tragic massacre of innocent children in Norway, wasn't really her choice. 

Those that hated her don't need any more reasons to do so. The outpouring of grief that followed her death is not an indictment of our society, Facebook, Twitter or anything else. Amy struck a nerve because so many families have an Amy Winehouse in their midst.  A young woman struggling with addiction while making poor decisions is not so uncommon these days. Her celebrity didn't invalidate her struggle, in fact it may have impeded her recovery.

Kurt Cobain was no less pathetic a figure than Amy Winehouse. You could draw any number of self destructive parallels between Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain. Both were unable to deal with unexpected fame, both tried to cope with drugs, both were involved in obsessive relationships etc. Yet, I don't remember hearing a shrill chorus of protest directed at mourners when he died.

Amy's music drew people to her like a magnet, her mix of smooth jazz, girl group pop and cool soulful vocals was infectious. Amy had a natural talent that few are born with. She also had a myriad of compulsive behavioral issues that kept her from fully realizing her potential. Amy was no pre-fab pop-hipster, everything about her including her garish beehive and make-up were expressions of her true self. She was a trendsetter, not a follower, she was an original, not an imitator. To hate her is to hate the tabloid media image bestowed upon her.

As reported by Reuters & The Associated Press:

LONDON (Reuters) - British singer Amy Winehouse, whose hit single "Rehab" became the anthem for troubled celebrity culture, has been found dead at her home in north London, Sky News reported on Saturday.

Police said they had found the body of a 27-year-old woman at a home in Camden Square, north London, after being called by ambulance services around 1500 GMT (11 a.m. EDT).

"Inquiries continue into the circumstances of the death at this early stage. It is being treated as unexplained," a police spokesman said. A spokesman for the singer could not immediately confirm she had died.

Police had cordoned off the leafy street outside Winehouse's home in Camden, where around 20 onlookers had already gathered along with media photographers and camera crew.

Winehouse was born on September 14, 1983, to a Jewish family with a history of jazz musicians. She was discovered by soul singer Tyler James at the age of 16 and in 2003 her debut album "Frank" was released, to general acclaim.

Her second album "Back to Black" was released in October 2006 and reached the No. 1 spot.

The album's hit single "Rehab" contained the line: "They tried to make me go to rehab. I said 'no, no, no.'"

Winehouse's rise was helped by her distinctive look — black beehive of hair, thickly lined cat eyes, girly tattoos — and her tart tongue.

She was famously blunt in her assessment of her peers, once describing Dido's sound as "background music — the background to death" and saying of pop princess Kylie Minogue, "she's not an artist ... she's a pony."

The songs on "Black to Black" detailed breakups and breakdowns with a similar frankness. Lyrically, as in life, Winehouse wore her heart on her sleeve.

"I listen to a lot of '60s music, but society is different now," Winehouse said in 2007. "I'm a young woman and I'm going to write about what I know."

Even then, Winehouse's performances were sometimes shambolic, and she admitted she was "a terrible drunk." Increasingly, her personal life began to overshadow her career.

She acknowledged struggling with eating disorders and told a newspaper that she had been diagnosed as manic depressive but refused to take medication. Soon accounts of her erratic behavior, canceled concerts and drink- and drug-fueled nights began to multiply.

Photographs caught her unsteady on her feet or vacant-eyed, and she appeared unhealthily thin, with scabs on her face and marks on her arms.  "I didn't go out looking to be famous," Winehouse told the Associated Press when "Back to Black" was released. "I'm just a musician." 

But in the end, the music was overshadowed by fame, and by Winehouse's demons. Tabloids lapped up the erratic stage appearances, drunken fights, stints in hospital and rehab clinics. Performances became shambling, stumbling train wrecks, watched around the world on the Internet.

Born in 1983 to Mitch Winehouse, taxi driver, and his pharmacist wife Janis, Winehouse grew up in the north London suburbs, and was set on a showbiz career from an early age. When she was 10, she and a friend formed a rap group, Sweet 'n' Sour - Winehouse was Sour - that she later described as "the little white Jewish Salt 'n' Pepa." 

She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, a factory for British music and acting moppets, later went to the Brit School, a performing arts academy in the "Fame" mold, and was originally signed to "Pop Idol" svengali Simon Fuller's 19 Management. 

But Winehouse was never a packaged teen star, and always resisted being pigeonholed Her jazz-influenced 2003 debut album, "Frank," was critically praised and sold well in Britain. It earned Winehouse an Ivor Novello songwriting award, two Brit nominations and a spot on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize. But Winehouse soon expressed dissatisfaction with the disc, saying she was "only 80 percent behind" the album. 

"Frank" was followed by a slump during which Winehouse broke up with her boyfriend, suffered a long period of writer's block and, she later said, smoked a lot of marijuana. "I had writer's block for so long," she said in 2007. "And as a writer, your self-worth is literally based on the last thing you wrote. .. I used to think, 'What happened to me?' 

"At one point it had been two years since the last record and (the record company) actually said to me, 'Do you even want to make another record?' I was like, 'I swear it's coming.' I said to them, 'Once I start writing I will write and write and write. But I just have to start it.'" The album she eventually produced was a sensation.

Released in Britain in the fall of 2006, "Back to Black" brought Winehouse global fame. Working with producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi and soul-funk group the Dap-Kings, Winehouse fused soul, jazz, doo-wop and, above all, a love of the girl-groups of the early 1960s with lyrical tales of romantic obsession and emotional excess.

"Back to Black" was released in the United States in March 2007 and went on to win five Grammy awards, including song and record of the year for "Rehab."

Reuters News Service, U.K.