As much as it pains me to say it, I wasn’t very shocked to learn of Amy Winehouse’s death yesterday. I don’t think anyone was. But that sad truth doesn’t make it any less tragic. The world lost a beautiful voice, the 27 Club gained another member, and the inappropriately weak “rehab” jokes continue to fly. (Side note to those people: If you think you’re original, you’re not. Respect the deceased.)
I’ve been in a funk for the past two days trying to wrap my mind around what Winehouse’s death means for the music world. Most obviously, we’ll never get to see her live out her full potential, which was beyond massive. But there’s so much more to it than that.
We’ll never get to see her overcome her addiction. We’ll never get to see her happy and at peace with her life. If ever there were a time to use the cliche phrase “battling demons,” now would be that time. This woman was so consumed by something, whatever it was that led her to the drugs in the first place and then kept her in the vicious spiral downward, that no amount of fame, fortune, success, or screaming fans could have rehabilitated her.
I always got the sense that Winehouse was never really meant for the world of pop music. It must have been an odd burden for her to shoulder, to be so consumed so early by an addiction and yet to have everyone in the world demand more music and insist on her living a life that she never seemed to want. Whereas other members of the aforementioned 27 Club (i.e., Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix) seemed to suffer for their art (and sometimes make more beautiful art because of it), Winehouse just suffered. She’s a cautionary tale not just for drug addicts, but for everyone. This is what happens when you do drugs, and this is what goes to waste when you enable a drug-fueled lifestyle. I hope the world (and the tabloids, specifically) can evolve past using tortured artists as a form of meta-entertainment and instead focus on helping them to better their lives. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get there with Winehouse. At least we have her incredible voice to listen to.
Rest in peace, Amy.