After reading a column two years ago about how great it would be if Amy Winehouse cleaned up, I couldn’t help but shake my head.
Most people can’t just flick a switch and change. The British singer, who passed away Saturday at 27, was one of those people.
Part of what made the gifted singer so great is that she lived what she wrote. When Winehouse sang about not going to rehab, we believed her.
She struggled with alcohol and drugs and that was duly noted in her compelling music. Love lost was a common subject for Winehouse, who suffered through an on again-off again relationship with ex-husband Blake Fielder Civil. Winehouse sounded like an old jazz singer as she sung about love lost in ‘Back to Black’ and ‘Love is a Losing Game.’
Winehouse was a throwback to old school singers, who were closer to circus freaks than Madison Avenue mouthpieces.
The troubled Winehouse couldn’t sell anything except wonderful, deep, moving songs and that should have been enough. She was like a tightrope walker. You always knew there was a chance she could fall and she finally did and it’s terribly sad since who knows what she would have accomplished next?
The same can be said for the other members of the ’27 Club,’ rockers, who passed at the age of 27, such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.
Winehouse doesn’t just share the same exit year as those iconic figures. The reason each of those late recording artist’s music touches so many people is that their songs are honest.
Did anyone ever question Cobain when he belted out the tortured lyrics from ‘You Know You’re Right.’ The same goes for Winehouse. She was the genuine article. She had much more in common with Billie Holiday than Katy Perry.
The only time I ever experienced Winehouse live was four years ago at the South By Southwest music conference in Austin. Winehouse performed in a small club on Sixth street and was simply captivating. She proved to be a terrific vocalist, who connected with the audience in an amusing and irreverent manner.
It wasn’t an easy feat considering that the hype was stratospheric. A myriad of music biz insiders wanted to see the ballyhooed figure and she delivered.
However, that wasn’t her life’s story. She couldn’t deliver over recent years. Winehouse left fans with only two exceptional albums, ‘Back in Black and 2003’s ‘Frank.’
It would be best to look past the tragic recent years and focus on her brief but fertile period, which inspired the likes of Adele and Lily Allen, two British singers, who also do it their way and that should be celebrated. If Winehouse was with us now, she certainly would be celebrating that freedom in her own way, which unfortunately led to her demise. But she lived her life her way, on and off-stage.