It’s sad and bittersweet to write an article about the passing of Amy Winehouse. While the passing of this lost soul is a great loss to her family and the music industry, we can only hope she has finally found the peace and love she could not find in sobriety. Winehouse, who died this past weekend at the age of 27, was a British superstar with a unique blend of R&B, soul, and jazz who paid tribute to the music of the crooner era.
Her most successful album, Back to Black raced up the charts as people listened intently to her singing about her addictions. The hit single “Rehab” was Amy’s truthful response to those who pleaded with her to get help for her substance abuse. The song came about one night as she walked down the street to a pool hall. She sang the lyrics as a joke and producer Mark Ronson encouraged her to turn the phrases into a song. The success of that song helped make Winehouse and her beehive hair a legend, but it also rewarded the addict for her addiction. At her concerts, audiences would sing along as she belted out the lyrics, “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, ‘No, No, No.’”
While family and friends pleaded with the singer to get help, it was clear that she did not want it. Forced into rehab several times, Winehouse was unable to get clean. Medical staff members have publicly spoken about her outrageous behavior and desire to leave the facilities. Recently, Winehouse even pleaded guilty to assaulting a nurse at one of the rehab facilities; there is still a pending lawsuit based on that claim. Winehouse herself even forecasted her death in a past interview, when she stated her expectations that she would be “dead in a ditch” in ten years.
Was it only a matter of time or could something have been done to help Winehouse before it was too late? Winehouse died on July 23, 2011, but this was not the first time the singer stopped breathing. Exactly two years earlier (almost to the day), on July 24, 2009, Winehouse passed out and stopped breathing due to a drug overdose. She was revived by then husband, Blake Fielder, and taken to a hospital, but not before she asked for more drugs. Winehouse admitted to battle clinical depression but found an escape through music and drugs. Was reality so bad for this starlet that she could not cope, or was the delusional world of addiction so strong that she could not escape its clutches? Was there something about the date that triggered emotional questions that she could only answer with drugs and alcohol? This is something we may never know the answer to and that will hopefully rest in peace with Amy Winehouse.
What we do know is that her passing brings great sorrow to those who loved her, and financial gain for her record label. Like any great artist, whose art becomes more valuable after death, Winehouse’s music downloads have soared since her passing. Memorabilia is being sold in record amounts on EBAY and tribute albums are already in discussion. The fact that Amy Winehouse is now a member of the “27 Club” (a group of musical greats who died at age 27, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain) will also contribute to the increased valuation of her musical empire.
While some viewed Winehouse as a cash cow, we should also remember that she was a troubled person. With a history of abusive relationships, public fights with strangers, and a long list of legal troubles, it is unclear if substance abuse was the demon that goaded her or the way she silenced the voices that lead her astray.
Addiction is a disease, and like any disease it can be cured, but the infected person must want help. It is not something to be feared or ashamed of, but a desire to get help is a key factor in recovery. Winehouse’s public lack of desire to get help was a solid factor in her death. On the family’s tribute website, Winehouse’s mother speaks about seeing her daughter less than 24 hours before her death. Janice Winehouse wrote, “She seemed out of it. But her passing so suddenly still hasn’t hit me. When the visit was over, Amy said: ‘I love you, mum.’ They are the words I will always treasure. I’m glad I saw her when I did.”
As with any tragic event, we hope this sets an example for those who face the same issues. Amy Winehouse was a beautiful and talented woman who was haunted by an addiction she could not shake. We can only hope that she finds peace in death. Our condolences go out to her family, friends, and fans who all adored her. If you or someone you love is struggling with addition, please seek help immediately.