In Memoriam: Amy Winehouse Jennifer Still

The first time I heard Frank, Amy Winehouse’s 2003 debut album, I immediately fell in love. Only 20 years old at the time of its release, she sang about the trials and joys of being a young woman in a modern world with heart and sometimes brutal candor. From deconstructing the politics of sex and love to poking fun at Generation Y’s more unsavoury proclivities, Winehouse understood the intricacies of the human experience and did the only thing she could to process them: sing about it.

By 2006, she began to gain wider recognition with the release of Back to Black. While many artists fall prey to the sophomore slump, Winehouse managed the exact opposite and reappeared on the scene with a new look; the multiple tattoos and beehive hairdo (which would later become her trademark) represented the strong, confident and no-nonsense woman from the Frank era but now with a retro feel. Back to Black displayed this shift perfectly, embodying a Motown-influenced, slickly produced record which built upon Winehouse’s obsession with her own obsessive self-awareness and continued to embrace the all-too-relatable tendencies we all have towards wreckless love and being our own worst enemy.

However, Winehouse didn’t just sing about destructive love, she lived it. By 2007, she tied the knot with on-and-off boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil, who she often described as her soulmate. It was around this time that she developed serious alcohol and drug abuse problems and started to become tabloid fodder not for her voice but for her regular public incidents as a result of said addictions. While many in Winehouse’s personal life attempted to separate the couple for her own good and they did ultimately divorce, her love for Civil is something that many point to as her ultimate undoing.

Winehouse was a self-described hopeless romantic in the most unconventional sense of the phrase. The intensity which led her toward unhealthy habits and relationships is also what lent such heart-wrenching sincerity to her music and made her stand out amongst the homogenized batch of young female popstars out there. She was phenomenally talented as a vocalist and songwriter, an artist whose vision was established early in her life and never wavered. She incited and inspired music fans with her unique brand of genre-hopping and left everyone waiting for what she would do next.

Hearing the news of Amy’s death this afternoon – at only 27 years old – was absolutely devastating. Here was an artist who was my age and seemed to share so much of my own heart and soul and ways of looking at the world, suddenly gone. I, like so many others, had been pulling for her. I would see photos of her looking healthier, getting better and I’d be excited for her to get back on track, to return to singing which was the one thing which always brought her such joy. I was excited for myself and other fans as well for the opportunity to share in more of her experiences in the way that only music allows. And now it’s all been cut short.

So here’s to Amy Winehouse. For all her tragic flaws, she was an unabashedly honest and emotional woman, ruthless and extremely loyal to her own heart, just trying to find her way. Unfortunately, she will never get a chance to find it now but I will never forget just how much she helped me on the journey to finding my own.

Rest in peace, Amy.

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  1. Couldn’t have wrote this better myself! She still lives in my heart.

  2. It’s sadly ironic that she has died this way after the song “rehab” brought her to such fame… Amy winehouse had talent that most of us can’t even imagine having and I think we can all agree it is such a tragic loss.

  3. i tried to convey these very sentiments to someone who wouldn’t stop being hard on her- and it left me feeling so alone in mourning all that amy was, to me and in this world. thank you for this wonderful tribute. thank you for creating the space for comments from all those who grieve the loss of an artist we held so dear to our hearts.

  4. i liked very much a comment i read in “frankfurter allgemeine zeitung”:

    “one could have already today looked forward to which records amy winehouse would have recorded in fourty years. great songs from the edge of the night, about stumbling and getting up again, about mistakes that didn’t teach you anything, if not some good punch lines. It is a terrible shame that we will never listen to these songs. it is a terrible shame about amy winehouse.”

  5. Wonderful tribute, she had so much talent and ability to speak to people – will be sorely missed. Am annoyed by all these post-mortem character assessments though, I saw one commentator say she had a “weak personality” – for real? That couldn’t be further from the truth!

  6. i still cannot believe it. RIP Amy Winehouse. You are one of the best!

  7. Sorry Jenn ( I didn’t mean Jill)

  8. Jill, you captured her essence in words so well.
    Thanks for the best obit I’ve read anywhere. 4 years is a long time to be drowning, she deserved the release.
    I can never listen to Valerie without a gigantic smile on my face.

  9. I started listening to Amy back in high school and now that I’m in my 20′s I listened to her even more. Her songs made more and more sense to me as I grew older. Much like how her music will be for years to come. A big part of me died along with her. I’m inconsolable right now. Thank you for the music, the words and the heart, Amy.

  10. This is lovely xo

  11. This is what happens when life is measured in dollars and cents. She deserved better than this.

  12. This is beautifully written, Jenn.
    RIP Amy.

    Jenna Buckle | 7/23/2011 04:07 pm
  13. To be honest I only heard some of her songs, but for someone to pass is always sad. my condolences to everyone mourning her loss. seems the good ones with talent to give always go first, whether due to their reckless behavior they were a human being that,touched someone, somehow…she might be gone but not forgotten…

  14. such a terrible loss. and at the same age as so many other great artists of our times.

  15. I woke up this morning and found out and I’m actually surprised how sad I am about it.. She seemed almost invincible to me, like she always got it together just before she was about to crash. When we thought she was out, she’d clean up a little… only now, she’s gone.

    My heart breaks for her family and those closest to her along with those who will never get to hear her voice.

  16. to post a comment

  17. This is such a beautiful piece. I’m sick to see all of the negative press she’ll be remebered by, and not the soulful, talented singer she was. You captured what she really was, in such an elegant way. Thank you!

  18. Jenn is perhaps one of the most eloquent writers when it comes to bringing out the importance of music and songwriters/singers. Frickin’ excellent piece.

    Marianna | 7/23/2011 02:07 pm
    • I agree,this was so articulate and eloquent.I have never read someone describe the death of a beloved singer so beautifully before. I think we will all miss Amy dearly,she was a talented and troubled soul.

  19. Thank you for writing this; I feel you really captured the tragic beauty of her and her music. It is a terrible loss, both to her family and friends and the music world. Rest in peace, Amy, and thank you for sharing your gift of music with us.

  20. I am beyond upset about this. RIP, Amy. I will miss you.

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