Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse, RIP




This is too sad for words, all the talent that Amy Winehouse had  now silenced because she couldn't muster up the strength to confront what was killing her.  Her song "Rehab"  showed she had an ironic awareness of her drug use , but this demonstrates, again , that self-knowledge unaccompanied by action is inadequate . The insidious thing about being an addict is that the thought of stopping what you know will silence you forever abates quickly after the craving takes over and the first FIX of the day is taken. Self awareness vaporizes,you forget or ignore the truth of the matter and wallow in the nod and the eventual panic to get still more drugs. As talented and smart, even brilliant, as Winehouse was, she seemed more or less without a clue to the severity of her situation. Drugs make you stupid, they reduce your life to a banal statistic despite whatever genius potential you began life with, they kill you and make you another deceased cipher. The real tragedy is less that a brilliant artist is silenced too young in her career, but that we are bound to keep reading variations of this sad scenario for the rest of our natural collective lives.

The moral of this tale is simple: Save your own life.
This is a nicely written tribute by NY Times culture monger Guy Trebay on how the recently deceased Amy Winehouse will last, but it presents what I think will be the sort of article that will dominate the flux of Winewhouse postmortems to come: more concern with what she looked like rather than how she sounded. It's a paradox that on the one hand the host of articles that are yet to come will praise what were he conspicuous gifts, that unique voice (a combination of Billie Holiday and Diana Ross) and a surreal grit as a lyricist, and yet have the conversation drift, as if directed by gravity, to the matter of her appearance. I sympathize with Trebay, who was required to write so many snappy column inches with so little actual Amy Winehouse music to refer to. It's not as if there was something to surmount in her art as there was in Sinatra's when his voice deepened and grew coarser, darker; he changed the way he sang and selected different songwriters to write for him, to brilliant effect. It's not like she's had an evolution as a lyricist, like Joni Mitchell or Elvis Costello, both of whom started out as awesomely gifted who, with time, transcended their skills and became pretentious and pedantic. No, there is only a very slight bit of studio work in her brief stay with us, enjoyable , full of promise and , alas, she's dead.  This isn't unusual for an icon who didn't release many studio albums during her life time. It was a mere two for Winehouse, and basing a discussion of her work solely goes static before long. The valid conclusion is for us to ponder what might have been and then give a sigh, but since we're not yet finished wringing our hands over her passing, we have pundits applying a slipshod semiotics... to her sense of style , dealing in tortuously strained metaphors to wrench more cultural significance from her departed presence. It strains credulity and it insults her fans and it insults her.

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