Amy Winehouse Joins Music Legends: Back to Black at 27
That old familiar story about musicians dying at 27 has become full focus once again by all the blogs and news outlets (mine included). AMY WINEHOUSE was the latest living legend to lose her battle with drugs and alcohol on July 23, 2011 at Age 27.
Some musicians work their entire lives to achieve critical acclaim for their music. Some of our brightest artists do it effortlessly and die just as quickly: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain are some esteemed company Winehouse has joined. Wikipedia even has a page dedicated to this curious story: 27 Club.
27 is that subconscious Mendoza line. It straddles being a careless and invincible youth and then life hits you as having to be a responsible adult. Unless you’re Steven Adler – who has somehow eluded death and is well into his 40’s.
When I was in high school and college, I was OBSESSED with Jim Morrison and would write every term paper I could on Jim. Drugs and Sex, Jim Morrison vs. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and anything I could weave into my academia, I would. What I realized is that as celebrated and lambasted for his drug use, he was truly a genius. A man that was incredibly misunderstood in his lifetime, experienced torment, and expressed his forward-thinking and provocative ways through his poetry and songwriting. I realized that as a highly-sensitive genius or prodigy, it’s very difficult to relate to most people and the torment can be intolerable.
Amy Winehouse exploded on the scene in 2006 with her 5x Grammy-winning album Back to Black. An English girl known for her huge black beehive bouffant with garish black eyeliner who looked like a 60’s mod train wreck. Once she opened her mouth with that unmistakable contralto voice, she brought swinging 60’s-inspired soul to mainstream. Also, the ironic and tongue-in-cheek banner song about Amy’s refusal to go to Rehab had the world was enraptured by her fresh retro and bold style. Winehouse made it easier for unconventional women to have a career in mainstream. Lady Gaga and Adele both cite Winehouse has an inspiration.
Unfortunately, her intense and profound addiction to drugs and alcohol scarred her unparallelled talent. This 2007 disturbing image on the right haunted me. Amy’s blood-soaked ballet shoes were drenched, reportedly because she was shooting heroin between her toes. Winehouse was bruised and bloody clutching her then-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Her personal troubles prevented her from sharing her incredible gift to the world. Will she be remembered for her art or for her lamented life?
In the meantime, the media that had gleefully paraded her repeated falls from grace is saying what a shame it was that she died so young.
How many musicians are going to die to teach a lesson of sobriety? Hard-living and rock and roll are romanticized as being inevitably bonded together. The problem goes so much deeper than the overdose deaths in the news. I don’t think Amy chose to die but I believe she succumbed to an unforgiving disease. What she did choose is to take that drug for the first time. She chose to drink that first drink and numb that feeling of isolation or self-hatred.
Some people don’t have normal coping mechanisms or support systems that would prevent them from feeling the need to self-medicate themselves. A profound low self-esteem or feelings of helplessness cripple people from getting help. Parents, please do what you can to teach your children to be independent, capable, and show them a healthy self-love. If you feel like you need to succumb to peer pressure or enjoy drugs and alcohol a little too much, please get help. Somebody cares even when you don’t. We all have gifts to share with the world and the world truly needs you.
Rest in Peace, Amy Winehouse. Your music is your legacy but we wish you were still here to sing with us.