On July 23, like legions of talented addicts before her, Amy Winehouse let her demons take her completely away from us. I am sad, I am angry and I am disappointed. But I am not surprised and this is an article that I, quite frankly, knew one day I would be writing. I agree with Josh Groban,who following her death, tweeted that “drugs took Amy’s gift, her soul, her light, long before they took her life.” Amy was walking dead for the past three years. Just a couple weeks prior to her death, I spoke to Law, the singer friend, who had introduced me to Amy back in 2007, and I expressed how I just wanted to shake her!
When she first hit the charts, Amy was a beautiful young woman with the most authentic and unique voice to come out of the pop scene in decades. But we came to know her more for her grotesque excesses than the few amazing songs she managed to release. She, unfortunately, bought into the rock star life bottle, pipe, and needle, without taking the musical part very seriously. With “Back to Black” such an epic and unforgettable album, we, her fans were left starving for another semblance of her musical genius and vocal greatness. It never materialized. The Devil had sucked her musical Soul out right before our eyes.
I completely adored Amy having first discovered her voice in the now closed Virgin Records in Union Square. “Me and Mr. Jones” was blaring as I shopped for new sounds. I instantly loved her raw and honest lyrics – “what kind of fuckery is this, you made me miss the Slick Rick show” – combined with her distinctive voice. Then, “Rehab” came on and I was hooked. Every other album paled in comparison to this bright new sound and for three straight months, I could listen to nothing but Amy.
I feel blessed that I met Amy and got to see her perform relatively early in her very short time on the scene and this Earth. It was her first NYC appearance at the Highline Ballroom and tickets had sold out in minutes. But I lucked out. Law, a backup singer from the George Clinton and Funkadelic crew was opening with his new band, so he put me on his list. At the time, I was still functionally addicted to alcohol and it was before the revelations about Amy’s addictions hit the tabloids. Thus, it was just another in a long list of TGATP nights, that spanned 20 years, of hanging hard with musos. When Amy bounded in, all skinny and rock star aglow, we preceded to do Jack Daniels shots, getting well lit before, during, and after her performance. However, she was still riveting and delivered an amazing concert that will go down as one of the most memorable performances that I have ever experienced. I was certain that Amy was going to be a major musical force and a big star and I was looking forward to seeing nad hanging with her again. But her various legal problems and ugly life situations kept her from ever extensively touring the US. The months, and then years, passed and the stories got uglier and more pathetically sorted. Amy was lost and treading the well worn turf of so many gifted musicians before her. Her deal at the crossroads had been made. Thus, though I did try to get messages of concern to her through her backup singer Talon, he never got back and I never saw or had contact with Amy again after that night.
As a recovering alcoholic, Amy’s departure is very personal to me. Because I know, first hand, the crazy things addiction can make you do! Addiction is like a soul possession that many aren’t able to exorcise. Amy’s decline reminds me of those meth posters where previously healthy people transform into zombies right before our eyes. If you watch, the video of her audition for the record label in 2002, then see the pictures of her strung out on, what had to have been meth, you’ll see what I mean. I have read tons of angry and nasty comments on Facebook and Twitter stating things like “she wasted her Life” and “I’m trying to care but don’t” from negative judgmental people and that angers me. Amy didn’t waste her life. Life wasted her! And while most of us were not surprised (every time I saw her name trending, I worried that she had died), it is sad that with billions of people on the planet, no one could convince her of how loved she was. Because love is all any addict really wants. It is a lack of real Love from the people around them combined with their inability to recognize God’s love, that turns healthy people into substance zombies. Hell, many of the same people judging Amy so harshly are getting soused on alcohol every night and fooling themselves that they are not addicts! A hangover is you body in withdrawal, people!
Instead of judging Amy, be happy and realize how blessed you are that you were not stricken with the incurable disease of addiction that proved deadly to her. There, but for the Grace of God, go every one of us. I am angry that we will never hear from Amy again. I am heart broken that she chose drugs over her family and legions of fans. I am sad that she didn’t love herself more. But I am glad that she is finally at peace. Amy, you told us you were trouble. But you really were all good.