The sad news of Amy Winehouse’s passing is only a week old and as the media waits hungrily for more results, many tabloids and websites are now focusing on her struggle with addiction – a self-destructive marbling which often overshadowed what Amy Winehouse was really about: an uncomfortable, vulnerable genius and the owner of a haunting, other worldly voice. A voice that was almost too poignant to listen to at times, so skilled was she in interpreting and isolating emotional pain with a musical range and intuition rarely heard.
Back to Black from the multi Grammy album of the same name is one of the most darkly moving songs that I have ever heard. I can go back to it again and again and still hear something different. The lyrics are clever and biting – brittle even – but Winehouse’s delivery reveals a searing hurt beneath. I also love Amy’s version of one of my all time favourite songs Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? ” The way that she sings this is worthy of a thesis – it’s banshee-like, lazily seductive one minute and childishly apprehensive the next with only a sparse whisper of instrumentation in the background.
It’s also important to note that Amy Winehouse almost single-handedly introduced her own particular brand of jazz to a new generation of listeners at a time when it was not trendy. At all. Amy served it up with a twist and at the same time, unwittingly trawled in many an older listener who understood and appreciated all the vintage references in her voice - and liked it. She was both musically past and present, even in her appearance. It was very different. It was refreshing.
With her beehive do and offstage problems, Amy made it easier for the press to make her into a caricature of herself. But she was no stranger to self-deprecation herself as witnessed by her hit “Rehab.” But a quick internet search will reveal what famous friends – notably Russell Brand with his kind, intelligent words and genuine love – have said about her. Amy Winehouse now being gone at 27 years of age seems beyond belief – but this is no time for judgement and I am weary of hearing people intone “Not surprising” and all the variations on that.
It’s simply not helpful.
Thinking about the music that might have been is too much to bear and mostly it is just such a devastating tragedy and unnecessary waste. Our hearts go out to her family and Rest in Peace Amy Winehouse, we will miss you.