Saturday, 30 July 2011
Tears Dry On Their Own
By all accounts Amy Winehouse was a warm hearted soul who loved her family and was generous to a fault. She also was an alcoholic junkie who had every possible opportunity to beat her addiction.
There can be little doubt that she was a talented individual but can she be described as a legend? She released two albums and died aged 27. Does dying young instantly catapult you into this exalted status or do you have to have produced a consistent body of work to qualify?
You could argue that a similar status has been conferred to the likes of Jimi Henrdrix (three albums), Janice Joplin (three albums) or Kurt Cobain (three albums). Would we be speaking about Simon Le Bon with such reverence if he died early in Duran Duran's career? Probably.
It was interesting to note that many of my friend’s first reactions to her death were to go out and buy her albums. It was as if her death had made those albums more worthwhile in the eyes of the public. They do say dying is a great career move.
I have been a huge fan of hers for a while and I was shocked but not surprised by last week's news. I, like the rest gawped at the car crash that had become her life never actually thinking that drugs would kill her. We still don't know for sure if they did as toxicology reports have proved inconclusive although when I hear her father Mitch say that she died because her body could not handle the shock of going cold-turkey with alcohol I fear he is looking through the kind of rose-tinted glasses only a grieving father could wear.
As a result of divorcing the junkie scumbag of a husband who opened the Pandora's Box of her drug abuse she was reported to have started cleaning up her act with the help and stabilising influence of new boyfriend Reg Traviss. However, the proof is in the pudding and recent Youtube footage of her comeback performances in Europe was embarrassing and upsetting. She was incoherent, stick-thin and booed off stage in Serbia. Such a contrast to the bright eyed voluptuous Jewish girl that emerged from the Brit School.
Amy has been on my radar since she played down at Brighton's Concorde 2 back in 2004. She was getting a lot of press at the time as debut album Frank, an assured mix of jazz and R'n B with some no nonsense lyrics concerning lacklustre boyfriends and slutty girlfriends, was receiving the sort of critical acclaim that eventually led to an Ivor Novello award. Frank is a solid album but her chemistry with Mark Ronson on Back to Black, the best selling album of the 2000's in the UK, transformed her into a bona fide superstar. It is a superb album from start to finish.
Before her death, Amy had been recording sporadically over the last three years and some of her unreleased songs are said to have a reggae influence reflecting her extended stay in St Lucia. The president of Island Records Darcus Beese suggest the tracks are so good they “floored” him when he first heard them. A lot of them are merely bare bones demos and would need a producer to flesh them out. I am willing to wager my house on them being released in the not too distant future. I would love to see Mark Ronson back in the saddle. Who else could better do her songs justice?
Maybe another storming album could justify the "legend" epithet and detract from the overriding image of her Billie Hollidayesque descent into the twin hells of drink and drugs.
With her body buried all that is left are the eulogies and the nagging sense of a wasted talent.