Those of you who know me and read WB know that I have never made my appreciation of Amy Winehouse a secret. I adore her voice and cheered for her in the ways a fan could, always hoping (along with millions) that she would beat her demons and live a long life, sharing her gift and finding peace along the way. We now know that wasn’t her fate.
We hear about celebrities passing away all of the time, but this one was different, at least for me. My heart broke instantly. There was a feeling, “Oh God, we’ve lost her” that only those who felt it can describe. Obviously, I didn’t know Amy, but what made her so special to her fans was that she made sure that we knew who she was– her soul, her weaknesses and her pain were all put out there without the slightest attempt to hide the ugly parts. There was no pretense, no inauthenticity with this woman.
Of course, the press used this to their advantage, grabbing every flaw and misstep and running them through the presses. To those who think Amy was little more than a drug addict who ran through the streets in bloody shoes, I challenge you to listen to one of her songs and maintain that viewpoint. The reality is that she was one of the greatest voices in the history of music. She was a genius. She was a daughter. She was a sister. She was a human being. She was still a child.
Yes, she had issues. But it wasn’t Amy who exploited them. She suffered. Some snickered. The tabloids made millions.
The news of her death came to me in an casual way. I was writing an article and my colleague mentioned that the small girl with the big, heartbroken voice had passed away. I cannot explain how I felt, but time stopped. Maybe it was the almost callous way she said “Hey, did you hear that Amy Winehouse died?” as though she was telling me that it was going to rain or maybe it was the fact that I listened to Amy almost daily and had come to actually care for her. Either way, the news hit me hard. I sat there, stunned.
“I don’t mean to laugh, but the look on your face is intense,” said my colleague with a giggle.
“Is anyone surprised?” asked another.
“Enough!” I said. It was an out-of-character response for me and the room got quiet. As inevitable and unimportant as it might seem to those around me, I was hurt. I found myself angry that a young woman’s pain and passing was “juicy water cooler dish”instead of supremely tragic.
Within an hour, Facebook was full of tributes and even more snarky comments. The latter upset me so much that I almost defriended friends I had known for 10+ years. It sounds dramatic, but this was less about Amy (as much of a fan as I am and as tragic as her passing is) and more about human beings being decent to one another. To me, it says much more about someone who makes jokes or shows zero emotion over the death of a 27 year old woman (child) than it does to be addicted to drugs and alcohol.
The truth is that I grew up with a father who struggled with heroin and alcohol addiction. I am no stranger to what the dependency can do–not only to the addict but to those who love them. I know what it feels like to be frustrated, to live in fear of a relapse, to fight like hell to make an addict care enough to get help (rarely works) and even to let go and walk away forever because someone you love so much can’t release themselves from the grips of whatever is ailing their intense internal pain.
Maybe my compassion for Amy was part projection (I am sure of it) but I know that most of it was true appreciation for a young woman who easily shared the limelight with the greatest artists of our time. Her precious vulnerability and sincerity remind me of another woman I have never met but love dearly–my beloved Marilyn.
May Amy rest in peace and may we all honor her by showing compassion to those who need our help most and by remembering her for what she really was, a great artist.
A Few of My Favorite A.W. Songs:
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Gorgeous)