When I woke up on Saturday afternoon (I’ve slept the entire morning off), I found a text message from Neil: Amy Winehouse found dead in her home. :(
Knowing Neil, this was not some forwarded gossip. He’s likely to have read some news online. I did not get to read the news and eulogies about Amy until today.
One of the most touching eulogies anyone wrote about Amy Winehouse came from Russell Brand:
I’ve known Amy Winehouse for years. When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool Indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma. Carl Barrat told me that “Winehouse” (which I usually called her and got a kick out of cos it’s kind of funny to call a girl by her surname) was a jazz singer, which struck me as a bizarrely anomalous in that crowd. To me with my limited musical knowledge this information placed Amy beyond an invisible boundary of relevance; “Jazz singer? She must be some kind of eccentric” I thought. I chatted to her anyway though, she was after all, a girl, and she was sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable.
I was myself at that time barely out of rehab and was thirstily seeking less complicated women so I barely reflected on the now glaringly obvious fact that Winehouse and I shared an affliction, the disease of addiction. All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but un-ignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his “speedboat” there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they’re looking through you to somewhere else they’d rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.
It was a movingly beautiful tribute, surprising for the comedian’s typical screen persona. Or maybe not. He’s gone through what Winehouse has gone through, after all. He survived it; she, unfortunately, did not.
A lot of people, myself included, thought Winehouse’s death was not surprising. That may seem heartless of us, except that it was obvious in her recent public appearances that Winehouse was at the cusp of self-destruction.
That did not make me any less sad on hearing her death. And that does not stop me from cringing at the continued displays of her photos from her final months: gaunt and sick and dying. Same with the ghoulish frenzy of people downloading her albums, curious to hear how this Winehouse woman sang.
I did not know you, Amy Winehouse, but your music touched me. I am very sad that I will not hear you sing a new song anymore.