Goodbye Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse

September 14 1983 – July 23 2011

Stronger Than Me is the first Amy Winehouse song I “discovered.”

And with that song: I was sold. I instantly picked up Frank, at the time her only album out.

That voice…that jazzy fresh style. It was like a sonic time machine back to 60s girl groups. That sound…it was like generations were packed between each note…from the 50s all the way to our current hip hop head bopping.

We all listen to a lot of music. Lots of bands and artists will come and go, on a playlist one day…gone a few weeks later. Every now and then you’re given an artist, a genuine talent that is utterly remarkable. Michael Jackson was like that…more of a force than a pop singer.

Amy renewed my interest and devotion to music…all kinds of music. She inflamed passions that had simmered down to orange coals. We’ve gone from the gatekeepers who controlled music to busting the dam wide open (thank you Napster), able to consume, sample and listen to any music we want. Open buffets sound like a good idea but really, if we’re being honest…the kind of honest when it’s the middle of the night, you’re tossing and turning…excess is never a good thing. Sadly Amy confirmed that as well.

Back To Black came out and had I been a cartoon my jaw would have hit the ground. That’s what I hear in my head. I am not a musician. I subscribe so wholly to music that at times I’ll wake up with melodies in my head. Sometimes I’ll dismiss them, probably from some random song I heard in a club or something. Certainly not a Sammy original. Other times, when the Sun is bright and life feels good, I’ll bop my head to the sounds only I can hear. And life does feel good.

Back To Black was it. That’s the sounds I hear. My friend Lana in Van City would smile when talking about Amy and her music. Lana was the one who turned me onto Mark Ronson’s astonishing album Version.

Later that day in Vancouver–I was there on tour with a rock band–another story for another day–I purchased the album from HMV and we piled into the car and put on Version utterly struck down by Amy’s version of Valerie. So good; soul good. We turned it up as we drove around Sunny Vancouver.

(During the tour Rehab became an ongoing joke…not for drug or alcohol consumption but rather lines like “no, no, no.” You’d ask something ridiculous to set it up and the response would be an echo of Amy’s “no, no, no.” Alright, whatever…you had to be there).

Rock sucks sometimes. As much music as it’s given me–us–it’s a supreme sacrifice for the artists. You pay a heavy toll to be successful. I’m not angry at Rock…or Amy. I’m resigned: some stars shine last longer than others. That’s an old school fact, hard to grapple with like life isn’t fair. They’re both true and ultimatly have to accepted.

Amy was an addict. As much as success opened many doors for her…it couldn’t sooth or even ease the pain that pushed her down those dark roads. I never met her so I can’t say much more…we all have our secrets and our hurts and our secret hurts. We all cope with them in ways we foolishly believe are unique.

The hardest part about love isn’t loving somebody. That’ll always be hard. No. The hardest part of love is fully, completely, totally admitting you are lovable. You are worth the love you receive. Accepting love is hard: when you say I love you which of the 3 words has more emphasis?

Could love have saved Amy? I’m too old, seen too many things to be so flippant. And yet, if I’m forced to accept the notion life isn’t fair then I want to hold onto the belief that love can save. But it’ll be a bigger love…not the cheeze peddled in romantic comedies and FM pop songs. A genuine life affirming love.

The saddest part of Amy’s death is not the death itself but that it was expected. It was avoidable. Like starving children in Africa, homelessness here…these tragedies are avoidable. Amy reminds me of that now…she stirs my compassion, prompts my understanding almost asking I funnel my energy into something of true value.

Amy’s death is a reminder to hold tight onto the music that stirs my heart while also reaching out to those in my life with hurt. Who could use a bit more love and less solutions.


Also published on Medium.

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