Amy Winehouse R.I.P.
Hannah sent me a message on Facebook, that I received at 4.30am over here in Brisbane.
Doubtless, all the reports already mention the following:
- The ‘outpouring of grief’ on Twitter
- The fact she was 27 when she died
- How other famous people are ‘beyond sad’
- The ‘tremendous waste’ of such a ‘phenomenal talent’
- How she lived a ‘troubled life’
- Her drink and drug ‘problems’
I don’t mean this to sound cynical. I’m genuinely upset by this news. It just seems that the media always reacts in a certain way to a ‘famous’ person’s untimely death, doesn’t matter who they are. I love Amy’s voice, the way it so resonated with knowingness and promise and complicity and joy. I loved the way she moved on stage, her clear and abiding love for music and her songs. Folk talk about emotion, about great singers. Folk call this person or that person incredible because they can gargle their scales in the bath. Folk fall over themselves to praise anyone who can sing without an auto-tuner, anyone who can. None of that matters shit. I measured my life by Amy Winehouse. Here’s what I wrote for Village Voice in June 2008.
I don’t like listening to Amy Winehouse in Australia, not here where it stays 28C and gets dark at 5.30pm.
It’s a shocking discovery, if not entirely unexpected. In my old life, Ms Winehouse signified late night sophistication, the allure of cheap neon, the allure of being part of the now, warmth, familiarity, integrity in a world hardly based on same, nostalgia for the shakes, slippers carelessly discarded on bedroom stairs with cassette tapes lying shattered all around, revelry with no desire for illumination, the usual. Now, she sounds hasty, not bawdy exactly, but tarnished by association. What use do I have for intimacy when surrounded by so much open green, refreshed by tropical rain? I can still delight in her voice, appreciate the thrill of her chase as she momentarily gives herself over to The Song but now I find myself turned off by the outmoded clutter of production, the reference to the Present Day (whatever that signifies). The horns on ‘Rehab’ still sound kittenish and coquettish but … y’know … rehab? Despite my announcement to bemused Aussies that I can’t be handling alcohol right now because I may have handled alcohol too much in the past, I don’t make a song and dance about it. Or do I? Is it simple jealousy that makes me unable to appreciate Ms Winehouse right now?
I don’t know (shrugs).
One reason I appreciated Ms Winehouse so much when I first heard her (roundabouts last Christmas, 30 years after everyone else) was because I usually feel so alienated by the zeitgeist — all those tawdry talent contests on TV, all that midriff flesh hanging loose — it felt so comforting to be in the muesli-bar aisles and grooving to the same sounds as The Herd. Now, I get that feeling from Kate Nash (only yesterday in Woolworth’s) but not Ms Winehouse. She’s too worldly. Plus, I never could stand the coffeehouse gentrification of Nina Simone. Now, when I hear those beautiful muted horns on Frank’s ‘Help Yourself’, I just yearn for a rerun of Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings’ triumphant rerun of Marva Whitney’s times and voices.
I’m reading Jonathan Coe. He came free with an airport copy of The Times. He greatly depresses me. Partly because his tales of “prog rock, punk rock, bad poetry, first love (etc)” remind me of John Braine (who always greatly depressed me), and partly because he reminds me of Amy Winehouse — cutting edge culture commodified for Those With Jobs, Those With Homes.
Isaac wanted to know why Amy Winehouse is dead. I wasn’t sure what to tell him. It took several attempts. Charlotte said something about how she “liked to live a life of danger”. That’s as maybe. Or maybe she just liked to feel alive? I can certainly sympathise with anyone who was reported to pass out “three times a week” through drinking. ‘Me & Mr Jones’ starts up three songs in, and tears prickle underneath my eyelids. Not because Amy is dead. It’s just the way they always do. It’s so uncalled-for beautiful. She was so generous in the way she shared her beauty.
R.I.P. Amy Winehouse. I suspect we’ll always be missing your next album.