Amidst what feels like an abundance of recent tragedies came the premature death of Amy Winehouse. Troubled though she might have been and--after the media blitz and countless tributes surrounding her passing--as banal as this entry might be, I must tip my hat to a singer who was a true talent, a refreshing original, and a real gift to the world of music.
I have always had a 'thing' for Amy Winehouse. Her troubled public persona, her music that recalled an era long gone, her hair that was (unbelievably) bigger than mine, and that voice...I was a huge fan. (I even dressed up as Amy when I was 17, living in Miami. I didn't need fake hair, but did need some help with the cleavage.) She was a petite soul singer with a big attitude and bigger problems, but I didn't care: her music, unlike so much of the processed junk occupying the other slots in the Top 40, had a rawness and an emotion that no one else could match. Rehab, perhaps her biggest commercial hit, was catchy and cheeky and all of that. But the rest of her wildly successful album Back to Black was, in my opinion, so much more wonderful than that first fun track; her first album was maybe less mature than her follow-up, but as an album put out by a then-19-year-old, it was truly original and still fantastic. My mother was a fan, too, one of the few musical artists we agreed on. She'd say, "That Amy Winehouse. So talented. What's that song, the sassy one...Rehab? She has problems, y'know, but she can sing. I hope she gets help." And that's what most people I knew seemed to say: she has problems, but man, that voice.
I had a chance encounter with Amy Winehouse when I was living in Miami. I know--it sounds ridiculous, and it was; it was probably also the coolest I've ever felt in my entire life. At the time, I was living in South Beach, having moved there to ballerina dance. I'd read in the papers that Ms. Winehouse and her then-fiancee, some industry hanger-on name Blake something, were in South Beach for the weekend to "get hitched quick." As a teenage music fan, I was happy enough knowing that Amy Winehouse and I were sharing the same zip code for a few days, and thought nothing more of it. I was out running errands that weekend, waiting at the crosswalk near Collins Avenue, when I saw a pin-thin woman with massive hair walking in my direction, accompanied by a classically ginormous bodyguard-looking type. I made an executive decision not to jump to conclusions and assume it was her, but instead to take a moment to retie my shoelace and in the process miss the light to cross the street, thus creating a happy coincidence which would leave me still waiting at the light by the time she came close enough to identify, assuming she maintained her current speed. As she got closer, it was unmistakably the Amy Winehouse: the tattoos, the ratty ballerina slippers, the hair, all of it. In my ogling, I noticed that she was glaring at me. My first thought, naturally, was "I'm going to die at the hands of what appears to be an angry Amy Winehouse. This is so cool!" I was frozen, both out of fear and admiration. At this point, the bodyguard was glaring too; I thought, "Maybe excessive staring by fans is forbidden. I should stop, but I can't." And then, my coolest moment on Planet Earth happened. As she and her bodyguard passed by, still glaring, Amy Winehouse gestured to me and said in her thick raspy British accent, "See, she has sharp, unique features." I let them walk a safe distance before peeing my pants and calling my mother.
Silly stories aside, I write this because whatever troubling addictions she had, whatever "27 Club" nonsense is printed in the media, whatever wild rumors fly in the press following her tragic death, no one can deny that the world has lost a true talent, a beautiful artist, and a genuine personality. I read a quote recently, "Sometimes the truly gifted are fuelled with an energy that burns twice as bright, but only half as long." Amy Winehouse's light didn't burn nearly as long as we would have wished, but man, that voice burned bright.
We do it classy.
1 day ago