The first time I saw Amy Winehouse was on TV, on a chat show, the title of which I don’t remember. She was striking in looks and articulate in responses.
Of course, it is traditional that musicians perform on such shows. Often to a pre-recorded backing track, and often with pre-recorded vocals too.
But not Amy. Without moving from her chair, she took out a tiny guitar and sang and played like an angel. A great musical talent indeed, and this one performance impressed me as much as anything I saw or heard later.
But the drink, and the drugs…
Well we should know what drink and drugs can do. Some call it ‘The 27 Club’ – Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain. All dead at 27. And now Amy Winehouse too. Granted, it wasn’t actually the drugs that killed Kurt, but that’s what probably sent him on his journey.
I received a question from a site user yesterday, asking why the people she worked with didn’t look after her better. I have no answer for that, but I suspect that problems on a scale such as this have no solution, other than the ultimate one.
I have had enough personal contact with people in the music industry to know that success breeds hangers-on, seeking easy prey in young people who suddenly have a lot of money, and time, on their hands.
Imagine yourself in this position – you have achieved success, and good management has made sure that you receive your just rewards. Suddenly you are wealthy beyond most people’s wildest dreams. And you’re young, an innocent in a wicked world.
And people, more experienced in the ways of life than you, see your money and seek to gain a share of it for themselves. You can’t be in the studio every day, you don’t have a regular 9-to-5 job to fill the time, you can’t go out much because people and paparazzi bother you.
How about some alcohol, some cocaine? You’ll feel good, and they are not really dangerous, are they? How about some ketamine, normally used to tranquilize horses? Gone through all the ‘safe’ options? Well there’s always the one whose name begins with ‘H’? Come on – you can handle it. Over and over again until you give in.
And someone else is to blame too…
We are to blame. All of us. Even me, right now. We pay more attention to people’s troubles than their talents.
If we had been as interested in Amy’s talent as her troubles, the news media would have been filled with pieces about what a great performer she was.
But because we were more interested in her troubles, that’s what we got. And a culture has developed where being a ‘wild child’ gains you attention. Attention = interest. Interest = sales. Sales = money. A vicious, and ugly, circle.
So we mourn Amy’s passing as a true musical talent of a very high order. And we will remember that drink and drugs do not create music, they destroy it.
P.S. Here is a musical tribute to Amy Winehouse, written and performed by Geoff Cottrell…