Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Death of Amy Winehouse

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
More articles by:

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

May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail