by Neha Malhotra
The man said “why do you think you here?”
I said “I got no idea
I'm gonna, I'm gonna lose my baby
so I always keep a bottle near”
- Amy Winehouse, “Rehab”
Amy Jade Winehouse. Amy. Wino. (14 September 1983-23 July 2011.)
Everyone but I knew Amy would die. I thought, with my usual and somewhat annoying brand of Pollyanna's optimism, that she'd tire of the merciless attention and jibes and live. Maybe she would have, but then there was as much against her as for. So, her death, in a way, seems almost logical or mathematically justified—minus 1 plus 1 equals zero, right?
She's a bit of a mystery. I've been through her songs, fuelled by curiosity and interest. I wonder what/who her “baby” was—her work, man or addiction? Someone said her negative vibe overshadowed her work. To me, this vibe actually lent character and irony to her songs.
“Yeah...” I thought, “‘Love Is A Losing Game’ and I, too, ‘... Am No Good.’” I thought we were similar but it's at a different level now—no longer about failed love(s). My Wino folder has 21 songs by her. In these songs I found a timeline of emotions—an evolution (or dissolution) of Amy. It is dissoultion ... for now the Amy that was is not now. From genius lost she's now just genius that was and will be. Period.
Pity, regret, maybe guilt rippled through newspapers after July 23. Commiserations, lofty words on addiction and pain followed soon after.
While some songs burnt themselves into my heart, others made me laugh and nod with sympathetic understanding— “Men,” I thought, “f-king b@$t@rd$.” But we won't take that path. Not here, not now.
I didn't get a lot in class
But I know it don't come in a shot glass
“Rehab” is one of her signature songs. And Amy didn't come in a shot glass either. I initially reacted emotionally to her death, ridiculously so. How twisted is creativity? Creative people see potential in everything ... even in grief, messy relationships or (in Amy's case) alcohol rehab. Mark Ronson saw potential in Amy's vehement refusal to go for rehab. She admitted that she drank because she “screwed up the relationship.”
In a typically defiant move, she fired her management team soon after. One of the songs I have is a live recording. She can't remember the name of song she's to perform and says “...f-k it, no f-k it ... yeah it's called Wake Up Alone.” Defiant? Yes... unapologetically so.
I see a defiant and an unusually candid woman through her work. Feisty, fiery ... vulnerable, sad, aloof ... earthy. She fascinates me.
“Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know know know."
I went through phases of knowing her. She was “Amy” when I was lamenting her loss, “Amy Jade Winehouse” when I read Saving Amy (and abandoned it in fury), “Wino” when I heard her drunken performances and marveled at her bold defiance, “Winehouse” when she was accepted as my fellow artist. Can't help but compare us. We're the same age, both creators and I am sure her struggles with sustaining inspiration were not unlike mine. One big difference is she never came back from “black” ... those words above were empty and the pictures, mirages. I confess that the need to drink or drug myself into oblivion is a strong temptation and I'm not sure what stops me. Maybe an attraction to normality or normalcy—an urgent need to be grounded in each day and moment. Being comfortably numb is a blessing but more than that would mean that I've committed myself to an addiction of some sort. She wanted to marry and settle but did she know what that really meant?
A creator must be socially responsible. I'm just as scared for the generations who've grown up idolizing Lindsay Lohan as for the generations who may grow up idolizing Winehouse. Will they see her in totality? Do we? Will they understand that unhappiness is a fast-selling product and maybe Winehouse was trapped in a cage of her own making? I see Amy realizes that partially when she sings “I'm not gonna spend ten weeks/have everyone think I'm on the mend.”
Perhaps real sorrow led to fame and then it was simulated— but the simulated sorrow soon gave way to loss of creativity and thinking power. She said that music was her real dignity (“I'd rather be restless”) and I wonder if her (almost) last performance, the song "They're Wondering Now" (Belgrade, 18 July 2011) was a defiant statement to the people who berated her. Was she unstable or was it her audience? Sometimes we can't seem to decide if we can revere an artist despite/in spite of his/her erring human ways.
I want to ask her why she didn't write, sing and stay creative for her sake. I want to ask her why she didn't fight. Or was she, like myself, an optimist (in a fashion) ... someone who thought herself invincible because of her talents? Or was she just another rich celebrity who took her life for granted? I feel cold fury because now she's dead and people like myself and others have been left wondering and picking up the pieces of her life together.
RIP Amy Jade Winehouse. You were right, you didn't need rehab. But we do, do, do.