Amy Who by Ron Steinman
Even in death the hype about Amy Winehouse continues. The recent documentary about her is making a lot of noise. But I have to ask, Amy who? I have never heard her sing. I have never seen her perform either in person or on stage. If I heard her voice now I could not identify her. I have seen her ravished face, except for her eyes in the ads for the movie. I know that addiction to drugs and liquor killed her, wiping out what had become a fruitful and supposedly legitimate career despite the mental and emotional lapses she struggled with and faced most, if not all, the days of her life. According to critics and fans, she had a future. But her addiction and her failure to overcome her demons relegated her to a wasteland of uncontrolled dependence. Well and good but in the world of entertainment and celebrity, her predicament was nothing new. Between the fan hunger generated and fueled by social media and her seemingly terrible inner life it is not surprising that a young woman succumbs to what free flowing drugs and alcohol bring to the party.
She had an addictive personality. It seems apparent that she could not cope with reality, with stardom, with fan fervor, with the ability to wake the morning following a performance and smile because of success. That is nothing new for entertainers, especially in the world of pop that feeds off emotional disability. The film about her life gets good reviews for its thoroughness, detail and revelations. I am sure it does its job well. But that does not mean we should ascribe to it a magic understanding of how the mind and soul of a pop star falls onto the scrapheap.
Winehouse lived badly. It is that simple. We usually say a person such as she was self-destructive. Her passing surely affected those who loved her and those who profited off her, all who think they failed her. That is nothing new when someone who seems to have a promising future dies a bad death. Realistically, though, is there ever a good death?
I am a naysayer by temperament. The power that pop culture has over the masses often eludes me. I am not a cultural philistine. But Amy Winehouse was a pop singer. Nothing more. Nothing less. Good music, from Bach to the blues to bop, or of all kinds has always been a part of my life. There are very few musical wonders, geniuses if you will, who changed the canon by the power of their creativity. Amy Winehouse is not one of them. I do not intend to hear her sing. Her voice, however good it may have been, will have no effect on my life. Her lost life means little to me. The hype surrounding her life and the film that documents it mean little in the broader context of life.
As an individual, I have other more important things to do that require my attention than to wander in the hype surrounding the poor soul of Amy Winehouse. I have to wonder, though, with the Amy Winehouse phenomena and hype, is it genuine concern for an artist some think died too soon? Or are we witnessing the curse of the prurient that drives much of society today?