Amy Winehouse & the Poeticism of “The 27 Club”

31 Jul

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

There’s some place in the universe where fallen rock stars and actors congregate, a place mere mortals will never get the chance to see. The fascination with dying young and talented once again surfaced in the news this past weekend when Amy Winehouse left our world last weekend. She left through the portal of London, but there’s no doubt that she’d be allowed entrance into the post-mortem clubhouse occupied by the likes of Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin.

When I first heard the news, it was over the radio. The disc jockey made a tasteless joke about Amy’s hit song “Rehab,” and her famous declaration that “no, no, no,” she would not be going. There’s a stigma against addicts that exists constantly but seems to become more strong when a famous addict dies. Amy Winehouse’s rebellion song against something that is expected to help her (And she attempted rehabilitation several times, only to seem to have to return again.) came back to haunt her as she faced the death that many tragic figures meet.

There is no glory in dying slowly from the abuse of alcohol and drugs. There are people in my life I fear will one day succumb to years of abuse of alcohol and drugs, and the thought of having to find them after everyone else leaves them to die truly scares me. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing you can do for people suffering from addiction until they themselves realize how they are hurting themselves and others.

The night of Ms. Winehouse’s death, I listened to Back to Black  for the first time in years. The album, of course known for its huge hit “Rehab,” is a multi-layered journey capturing the heartbreak of life and love. One of the songs I identify with is “You Know I’m No Good,” displays the conflicted feelings Amy Winehouse had about loving men who she knew sucked, but she just could not seem to help to stop. This is often the case with many women, and it seems that Amy allowed several of her relationships, especially her marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil, affect her in ways that only the use of alcohol and drugs could soften. Perhaps my favorite song on the album is “Tears Dry On Their Own,” a tragic song disguised by fast beats and a chorus of women in the background. Amy sings, “I fucked myself in the head with stupid men.” Unfortunately, I identify with this, as I suspect many women do.

The pain displayed in her voice gives Winehouse a place in the kingdom of female singer-songwriters suffering over men, loneliness, and struggles with sadness. Without Amy Winehouse, there would be no Duffy, no Adele, and likely no interest at all in female singers pouring out their hearts about things that matter.

The 27 Club now has a new member, though it’s still unclear what impact Winehouse’s music will continue to have in the years to come. Winehouse did not likely peak artistically, but the art she left behind will serve as a reminder of the pain and struggle that comes with genius. She is perhaps not a Janis Joplin or Jim Morrison in terms of artistry, but she stands alongside them as another example of what dying young can do for one’s talent. It seems as though no one truly appreciates anyone until they’ve died, and Ms. Winehouse appears as yet another recruit for post-mortem legend status. Pour one out for Amy Winehouse.

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