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Amy Winehouse, Camden’s ‘Rehab’ Soul-singer, Dead at 27

Posted on the 25 July 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Amy Winehouse, Camden’s ‘Rehab’ soul-singer, dead at 27

Amy Winehouse, Hovefestivalen 2007. Foto: Kim Erlandsen, NRK P3, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrk-p3/2325404812/

Soulful singer Amy Winehouse, known both for her big voice and songwriting talent and for her widely publicized struggle with drugs and alcohol, was found dead in her London home on Saturday afternoon.

Winehouse, raised in North Finchley, north London and nurtured in the music scene of Camden Town, shot to fame in 2006 and 2007 with her jazz-inflected, retro album, Back to Black. The album won her a BRIT Award for best female solo artist in 2007 and five Grammy awards in 2008, including Best New Artist, among a host of other awards and nominations. The success of Back to Black led to a re-issue of her brilliant, but ignored at the time 2003 debut album, Frank, which also garnered several awards and nominations. But while Winehouse’s career was a on a meteoric rise, her private life appeared to be in a shambles: She married inconstant boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil in 2007, but the two were sometimes photographed together on nights out, bloodied and bruised from rowing and intoxicated. The two later divorced, but not before Fielder-Civil was quoted in a British tabloid as saying he’d introduced Winehouse to crack cocaine and heroine.

Problems with drugs and alcohol, as well as depression, self-harm and eating disorders plagued Winehouse, despite periods of apparent remission and health. The singer spent time in St. Lucia, apparently recovering, and moved into a villa in Camden Square, just north of notorious Camden Town, in early 2011. Fan eagerly awaited her long-promised third album, the follow-up to the blockbuster Back to Black, but she was always reportedly “working on it”. She was booked for a comeback tour of Europe this summer, but cancelled after showing up drunk on stage in Belgrade, slurring “Hello, Athens!”

Winehouse’s relationships with those close to her, including her father, Mitch, a taxi driver turned jazz singer who reportedly lived with her, were “fraught at best”, claimed Sheila Marikar at ABC News. Marikar spoke with Ian Drew, music editor for Us Weekly, who claimed that Winehouse’s family blamed her ex-husband, Fielder-Civil, for getting her addicted to drugs; but Marikar also noted that, according to an Us Weekly article from Sunday, Janis Winehouse, the singer’s mother, who is divorced from her father, “also failed to get her the help she needed”.

Police have refused to say whether her death was linked to drugs or alcohol, but are treating it as “unexplained”; a date will be fixed for a post-mortem. Other reports suggest that she was found alone in bed, or that she died after a “36-hour binge and row” with her off and on boyfriend, Reg Traviss.

Winehouse joins a growing club of influential artists and musicians, all of who eerily died at the age of 27: Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, The Doors’ Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, American blues legend Robert Johnson, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are among them.

As fans, including celebrities, mourn the loss of a brilliant voice, the commentariat is trying to put together what Winehouse’s death means.

  • Russell Brand: Change the way we view addiction. Comedian Russell Brand, who has had his own struggles with drugs and alcohol, remembered Winehouse and reflected on the disease of addiction in an op-ed for The Sun. Though the two knew each other from that hazy Camden scene, Brand says it wasn’t until after she became famous that he actually listened to her music. “Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I’d only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound. So now I knew… She was a f****** genius.” But with another talented addict dead, argued Brand, it’s time society revised how it looks at addiction and see it “not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill.” Said Brand, “We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there.”
  • The Daily Mail remembers one of its headline staples. Winehouse had a complicated relationship with the media and coverage of her death in the The Daily Mail, British tabloid that frequently ran images of Winehouse looking disheveled, intoxicated, and sometimes bleeding, is evidence of that. Now, many of its writers mourn the singer’s death. Paul Bentley wrote, “In just 27 years, Amy Winehouse has managed to leave behind her a soul legacy, with a band of modern British female soul singers – Adele, Duffy, Jessie J – celebrating success across the world borne almost entirely in her wake. Sadly, however, the immeasurably gifted singer is unlikely to be remembered for her talents, which were so often starved; drowned by drink and tranquillised by drug abuse. Amy Winehouse’s death was one foretold by gruesome pictures of bloody plimsolls and near death experiences from drugs publicly retold by her lovers.” Alison Boshoff added, “The past few years have been agonising to watch as the vulnerable singer so publicly played out her descent into a drug and alcohol-ravaged hell.” Of course, The Daily Mail was on hand to chronicle that descent.
  • Too close to temptation? Harry Mount, writing for The Telegraph, wondered if it was the proximity of Winehouse’s beautiful villa on Camden Square to the dodgy, “drug-dealing haunts of Camden Market” that hastened her demise. “It’s only recently that the bankers and lawyers have colonised Camden. And there are still some pretty dodgy spots nearby, where I wouldn’t go at night,” he wrote. “I often bicycle through Camden Lock and am regularly offered drugs by dealers hanging around under the bridges that criss-cross the Regent’s Canal. Of course, someone as rich and well-connected (or badly-connected, you might say) as Amy Winehouse could have arranged drugs for herself in the Arctic Circle. But, still, it might have helped save the life of this vastly talented, immensely sympathetic figure, if she’d found herself an equally charming house, a little further away from the in crowd.”
  • Her impact. While much of the comment has focused on Winehouse’s tumultuous personal life, Abbey Goodman at CNN International was quick to point out the singer-songwriter’s extensive influence on music as well. “It was Winehouse’s combination of smoky-voiced retro ’60s soul flavor and unabashed grittiness that opened the floodgates for British chanteuses like Duffy, Lily Allen, Florence Welch of Florence & the Machine, Estelle, Eliza Doolittle and even Winehouse’s own goddaughter, 15-year-old Dionne Bromfield, to break into the U.S. music scene,” she wrote. “Despite producing only two albums, Winehouse’s talent was undeniable and the stories about her personal meltdowns were unavoidable. Where Winehouse was transparent about her demons, her successors presented a more on-the-nose image of the girl-groups of yore: Sweet, straightlaced and sober.”

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