R.I.P. Amy Winehouse, 9/14/83 - 7/23/11
By now, you've probably heard the news -- if not, sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings, darkening an otherwise sunny afternoon -- Amy Jade Winehouse has passed away at the age of 27. At 4 p.m. London time today, authorities reportedly found the singer dead in her apartment. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
Given the erratic twists and turns of her life and her career, the news isn't terribly surprising, but it is certainly terribly sad. Winehouse possessed a rare talent, and when she was on top of her game, she was nearly untouchable. Sadly, when she missed the mark, she missed it by a country mile. Last month, she mumbled and stumbled her way through a performance in Belgrade, in which fans expressed their displeasure by showering her with boos, presumably prompting her to cancel her subsequent tour plans.
Nonetheless, like I said, when she was on, she was dead-on and completely in a league of her own. Her 2006 album, Back to Black, has the makings of a timeless classic, the kind of record that sounds every bit as good and affecting today as when it was released almost five years ago, and it will probably still sound that way twenty years from now, thirty years from now.
But even back then, sadly, there were undeniable cracks beginning to show in the foundation. In Wino Diaries, a 2007 column of mine in which I professed my shameless and undying love for Winehouse and Back to Black, I worried that she might be "on her way to becoming another premature casualty, a tragic footnote in a long line of legendary flame-outs."
Very deflating to discover today that that premonition proved to be true. Upon hearing the news just a bit ago, I queued up Black to Black. "Tears Dry on Their Own" is just finishing up, and the opening strains of "Wake Up Alone" are playing as I write this, and I just keep shaking my head and thinking what a goddamn shame this is. Really.
Sad, of course, that she died at such a tender young age, but equally as troubling: The fact that rather than being remembered for the one-of-a-kind talent she possessed and for the undeniably affecting and beautiful music she created, there's a good chance she'll be remembered more for the mess that her life was -- although I'm sincerely hoping that's not the case.
At the very least, her artistic legacy is likely to be further overshadowed by the trivial factoid her death represents, the fact that she was 27 when she died, the same age as other iconic figures who passed away prematurely like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.
As Winehouse once so eloquently wondered: What kind of fuckery is this?
Rest in peace, Amy.
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