Remembering Amy Winehouse and other thoughts

It has been confirmed. Amy Winehouse died today at age 27; the cause of death is yet to be determined. Truthfully, it doesn’t even matter if she overdosed or if she died of a freak accident. We are at a loss today. If it was indeed drug abuse, then the only thing we need to express other than regret and sadness is outrage.

Outrage at the music industry which glorifies – or at the very least, facilitates – this rockstar lifestyle, and often viciously destroys the very things it produces. There is nothing to be idolized, nothing to be applauded in the wake of these deaths – only condemned.

We have become sickeningly used to it. To have drugs and alcohol claim as victims so many artists and musicians. And to make matters worse, we receive these tragedies with cynicism. We hear or say things like “they had it coming” “I’m not surprised”, or “I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner.” These are understandable, but fucked up reactions about somebody’s passing. But can they be helped?

Her destructive ways were all too public. The press willingly documented her life in the most unflattering way possible, following her life with a kind of morbid obsession – almost hoping for one more relapse and tour cancellation; rooting for yet another unflattering picture of her and her scumbag ex-husband, which were too profitable to pass up. She was portrayed as a caricature: a mess and a junkie. Whatever music she made was just a side-note to yet another personal scandal. When looking at those drunken photos, I doubt anyone even remembered she made music – and damn good music, at that. I can only imagine the toll it must’ve taken on the already fragile and troubled singer. How could that climate have facilitated recovery?

I by no means intend to suggest that Amy Winehouse’s untimely passing is anyone’s fault but her own – it absolutely is. The last couple of years of her life were the result of many ill-conceived choices and omissions. Hit singles like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good” spoke about Winehouse’s addictions head on, and would ultimately be sadly prophetic. Alcohol and drug abuse are a kind of slow suicide. What happened today is merely the final and inevitable outcome of that uninterrupted process. But this was preventable. This is what makes everything so sad.

Her addictions often overshadowed her music and jeopardized her career. Ultimately, they claimed her life. But let’s not let them claim her death as well. Her legacy should not be overshadowed by her destructive choices. Let it be her music.

Amy Winehouse will be impossible to replace. All I know is that when everyone was boring, along came this thin and gangly woman covered in tattoos, who had a voice that demanded to be heard and a sound we didn’t even know we were missing, but that soon became indispensable. She exuded personality from every pore on her body: from her music and attitude to her hairdo, personal style and even those ballerina shoes she was always wearing.

So let us remember her like that: as the soul icon who took the world by storm with her magnetic personality, amazing talent and outstanding voice. She left us way too soon, but she was unforgettable even before her passing. RIP

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