FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Death of Amy Winehouse

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The writing was on the wall even before news came of the Saturday demise of Amy Winehouse at the age of 27.  Her ‘unexplained’ death (or was it a broken heart?) at such a tender age paralleled that of others who perished before reaching the age of 30.  The door to the 27 club has a tendency to open at rare moments, but exceptional additions do take place.  The club’s membership includes, as various commentators have noted, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.

That said, the discussion is already taking place as to whether she even deserves to be ushered in that ‘club’.  Even as the body is still warm, the pundits are chattering about whether she truly deserves her role in that exclusive necropolis of talent.  Again, the act of dying early and dying young tends to feed the hagiographers.  A few albums under one’s belt is certainly no buffer against sainthood, especially if one is someone like Jeff Buckley.  Winehouse has such triumphs as Back to Black to point to, but she might have had several more in her.

Winehouse was always going to be the music industry’s soft spot, an easy target for the press vultures keen to find copy and fill columns. Vulnerable, mad, and plunging into drug and alcohol filled depths with seemingly no visible bottom, she was always going to be easy game.  In January 2007, a review in the Village Voice by Amy Linden summed up the Winehouse effect even as her smoky voice was starting to fill the airwaves.  Even then, Linden would note how, ‘as the knockout set went on she appeared increasingly tentative and distracted.  Whether chatting to her backup singer while he was still backup singing, continuously adjusting her waterfall hairpiece, nervously tugging up her frock’ making her look ‘like a Motown-informed cross between Fiona Apple and Pete Doherty’.

In terms of her musical presence, commentators saw her as typifying the post-soul era, or at the very least one who gave it renewed force by incubating it in a British setting.  The Dap Kings, for instance, shored up Winehouse, filling out her Grammy nominations.  Musically, she was to be taken seriously.

That said the torrid personal life of the bruised singer can be its own combustible fuel.  Could Winehouse have existed on her music alone, a stable figure putting lyrics together in an untroubled existence? Such questions can never be answered.

Her mournful tones and themes were very much her own.  Composers often create their music in order to mirror a tragedy, if not live it.  But the personal can become banal, the material of tabloid worth.  Did she vomit on her breakfast buffet on a trip to St. Lucia?  Did she send a few seniors to their graves by dancing topless on a balcony?  Even Maclean’s (Mar 23, 2009) would note how Winehouse’s ambition to learn driving was encouraged to keep her sober.  Besides, a tarnished image might not be such a bad thing.  The public relations wonks at Fred Perry may well have had other things on their minds when they signed Winehouse to be their brand ambassador.  And what of PPQ and the party hounds?

As is so often with such figures, dying need not only fill shrines but pockets.   Record sales have spiked.  But as she is laid to rest, one can only wonder whether it would have been better had she remained a brilliant singer rather than a deeply troubled star.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail