Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dear Amy...

Today's the 30th of July. That means it's been 7 days since you passed. They've already had your funeral, and your Dad is apparently giving your clothes away to the fans that are holding vigil at your apartment. Strange days, indeed.

Just as strange as the last few years were for you. I never met you. I just liked your music. Well, actually, I hated it at first. Back in 2003 your first record "Frank" entered my house and I was told "you'll probably like this". I guess because along with all the other types of music I like, I also fancy a bit of jazz and soul, your debut album was recommended to me. So I played it, and my immediate reaction was "god, I can't STAND her voice!!" It grated on me, the way you sang, all sass and marbles in your mouth, so full of Gen Y attitude. "Who is this little chick?!" I thought.

Well, I gave "Frank" another play, then another...and I got to know you, as far as I ever could. This little Jewish girl with the biggest balls, singing about boozing and blokes and heartbreak and passion and cheating. And I started smiling, because I began to get your lyrics, and they were funny! I never expected someone so young to sing with such wit and knowingness, but by using contemporary slang and phrasing you created an original sound for yourself, while honouring the jazz style you so blatantly loved.

You nailed it on "Fuck Me Pumps" - You can't sit down right/ Cause your jeans are too tight/ And your lucky it's ladies night/ With your big empty purse/ Every week it gets worse/ At least your breasts cost more than hers. Comparing an insipid boyfriend to frozen turkey in "Stronger Than Me" and then later sweetly and beautifully crooning the 1930's jazz standard "There Is No Greater Love" only cemented the vision of talent that was becoming obvious. And that stopped grating, and instead all I could hear was that gorgeous honesty, and a timbre like few others of your age. You sang about Moschino bras, and your guitar....and it was so REAL. You connected in an uncanny way with girls and guys your age, but allowed people way past their twenties to reconnect with the tumult of that age. And the sound was just awesome.

You sold a few records and started getting noticed, and then the stories started. Messy nights, messy gigs, and it seemed some of us knew your path was set. You put out another great record, won more awards, and made a tidy little earner from your talent. You gave us more wit: What kind of fuckery is this?/ You made me miss the Slick Rick gig" from "Me and Mr Jones" is one of my favourite lines! Your voice boomed with so much soul and grit on "Back to Black", and the brilliant Dap Kings consolidated the mash-up of your Motown soul melodies. Of course though, everyone talked about "Rehab", and how sadly autobiographical it was becoming, as behind the scenes you became fodder for the tabloids and their photographers.

Your older fans have watched many of their musical heroes destroy themselves, and last week your body gave up after the years of punishment. It was unsurprising that it happened at all, yet tragic that it happened so quickly, that someone so young and with so much to offer would become yet another rock cliche. Russell Brand wrote a poignant tribute to you, about addiction inevitably ending one way or the other. As someone who has watched friends win and lose similar battles, and received the dreaded phone call, your death is a reminder for us of the ghastly wretchedness of drug addiction. It is by no means a romantic death. The survivors - the friends and family - are left behind with the wounds of guilt that still smart years later. We ask ourselves "could I have saved her", "if I'd called the day before would he still be here?, "did I do enough?" It's a heartbreak hard to fathom unless you have lived it.

So, Amy, maybe it was a battle you could never win, but I am grateful for the 27 years we had you. No matter how you saw yourself, you gave us a gift, and I will always remember you for it.

Thank you for the music, Amy Winehouse.