Everyone Thinks I’m On The Mend
June 18, 2015 6:25 PM   Subscribe

On Amy Winehouse, Four Years After Her Death

Sifting through the record now, it’s hard to parse whether a given obituary is being serious when it mentions that, for example, Winehouse had fallen off the wagon three days prior to her death, or whether it’s deploying that particular detail for melodramatic effect. The genuine public mourning for the singer — a tree outside her London home was converted into a candlelit shrine by grieving fans — was all tangled up with too many R.I.P.s soured by an undertone of unperturbed derision. “I told you so” is not really an appropriate response to anyone’s death — is it ever a productive response to anything? — but it was prevalent in responses to the news about Winehouse, even though it was occasionally delivered through very real tears.
posted by beisny (31 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I cheated myself
Like I knew I would
I told you I was trouble
You know that I'm no good

posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:56 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

But if my daddy thinks I'm fine...

My daughter is amazing to me, and I wish I possessed half the coolness she does. But I can't even imagine living vicariously through her in the way that Winehouse's father did. He lived her to death, imo.
posted by Ruki at 7:16 PM on June 18, 2015

Amy Winehouse's death is a fucking tragedy and it makes me so sad every time I remember she's gone.
posted by flatluigi at 7:30 PM on June 18, 2015 [30 favorites]

I've read that the "they" in "Rehab" were her then managers, who were the only ones who had her best interests in mind.
posted by brujita at 7:40 PM on June 18, 2015

Such a brilliant songwriter and vocalist. Never heard anyone break out of the structure while honoring it. I so wish she could still be here with us.
posted by yesster at 7:51 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

"we knew it would happen, but we didn’t do anything about it." Like what, exactly? When someone actually writes a song rejecting rehab, what are your options? When someone is hellbent on their own destruction--especially someone who seems to be unusually gifted--and there's literally nothing that the average fan can do to compel them to change course, save for simply refusing to support them with their patronage, a certain amount of detachment is to be expected. (And I don't really buy the argument that the reaction to Winehouse was particularly gendered; Chris Farley, someone whose self-destruction was about as public as hers, didn't get treated particularly kindly, either.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:55 PM on June 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

amy winehouse encountered some shitty treatment because she was a woman and an addict and she was famous. chris farley received some shitty treatment because he was fat and an addict and he was famous. the focus on them and the way it manifested was shitty in both cases, but shitty in different ways.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 PM on June 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I understand that they both got some shitty treatment. That's not really what's at issue here; the article author seems to think that the collective "we" should have done something, above and beyond simply not being shitty to them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:27 PM on June 18, 2015

Feeling sad? I know that this song washes that feeling away for me...

Not so much the lyrics, per se, but her voice, the utter joy in her voice. Yes, someone should have done more. Even if it meant she never sang another note.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 8:58 PM on June 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

This article seems to berate the reader for recognising self destructiveness. I mean, it doesn't take a genius to see that Amy was troubled and that yes, if she didn't go to rehab and continued down that path, it could likely end in her death. She sang a song about it! What exactly was he expecting fans to do that her own managers and people who loved her couldn't? You can't will someone to get past their own demons and embrace life. Was it tragic? Absolutely. But to ask the greater public to bear responsibility for seeing this coming and seemingly doing nothing is crazy. What a bizarre essay.
posted by Jubey at 9:07 PM on June 18, 2015 [13 favorites]

I wasn't one of those people who wasn't surprised. Until the very end, I was sure, absolutely sure, that she was going to turn herself around. It completely surprised me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:11 PM on June 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

I liked Russell Brand's response to her death:

Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy's incredible talent. Or Kurt's or Jimi's or Janis's. Some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill.

We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. 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. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call.

She had a disease that wants you dead. It kills addicts who have plenty of people trying to get them to stop, often for years and years. That usually doesn't come up in the obituaries of the non-famous, though, or it is just alluded to in a way that you'll recognize if you know what to look for. I would like to think things would get better with a more enlightened approach, but addiction is still going to kill people.
posted by BibiRose at 9:21 PM on June 18, 2015 [39 favorites]

You can't will someone to get past their own demons and embrace life. Was it tragic? Absolutely. But to ask the greater public to bear responsibility for seeing this coming and seemingly doing nothing is crazy. What a bizarre essay.

Yeah. Speaking from experience, for anyone who's had a family member or friend with an addiction, you can try to hold onto them all you want. All you can do is offer your love and support and not be an enabler. But they have to make the call, and it's not on you.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:39 PM on June 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Societies have a duty, a responsibility, to protect their most vulnerable members. When one of your loved ones dies of an addiction they chose, that's not on you, no; but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a young woman whose family, friends, managers, public, everyone, failed her by never acting as though they cared. You can't pretend that tabloid culture isn't toxic, and you can't pretend that all of us don't share a little bit of the responsibility for its continued existence. The same is true of a lot of music culture. And even outside of those things, we flat-out don't understand or care about addiction; we see it as something to be gawked at, to be sneered at, to be leered at, to be tut-tutted and dismissed as a personal failing and a foregone conclusion.

I saw John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats play a few weeks ago, and he played (as he always seems to these days) his excellent song-tribute he wrote for Amy Winehouse, which is subtitled "Spent Gladiator." I like that image of her: a spent gladiator, someone who is finally giving out after a lifetime of battling demons which are no less real for lacking tangible form. I love John's song about her; that's how I like to remember her.

I think public figures who die young are almost always misunderstood mightily, and Amy is no different. It was sort of the same with Kurt: a kid who was just incredibly joyous and full of love for the music he cared about and the stuff he wanted to create was forced into the role of a spokesman for self-destructive druggie slackers everywhere, and Nirvana's music has all been reinterpreted in this dark way as the product of suicidal tendencies. Amy's music has gone through the same process, and "Rehab" (for instance) has lost its amazing vivacity and turned into a tragic cry. Which is awful. I hope people can begin to remember that Amy had an amazing voice and was an incredible musician and singer.
posted by koeselitz at 11:06 PM on June 18, 2015 [9 favorites]

Also, Kathy Iandoli reviews the impressive-looking new documentary about her life, Amy, for Pitchfork: "We All Destroyed Amy Winehouse"
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 PM on June 18, 2015

The nice thing about "We're all a little bit to blame" is it nicely diffuses the responsibility so that pretty much no one is to blame. Say society had a responsibility? Then that means we make the actual events nice and abstract so that nobody has any real responsibility for actually doing anything.

And finally, the nice thing about these homilies is it allows us to look at an actual death at a remove so that she becomes not an actual living person who died, but a nice, safe, symbol. Yet another tragic rock star, destroyed by the system/drugs/rock&roll/whatever. At least until the next one pops up.
posted by happyroach at 11:55 PM on June 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

Dylan in irony mode:

Don’t say ‘murder,’ don’t say ‘kill’
It was destiny, it was God’s will”

Who Killed Davey Moore?
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:35 AM on June 19, 2015

I've read that the "they" in "Rehab" were her then managers, who were the only ones who had her best interests in mind.

Guardian interview with Nick Shymansky, the manager in question.
posted by Grangousier at 1:37 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Off topic a bit: I'm trying to find the rehab she didn't want to do, but I can't afford to pay for...And I don't think it's there for people like me.
posted by b33j at 1:58 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Billie Holiday, near the end of her life, once said that she knew some people came to see her perform hoping she would fall into the orchestra pit.

Not much has changed about people but the Internet has a tendency to magnify the effect of the schadenfreude crowd. We also have a shame as a verb culture that is worse than it was in Janis Joplin's day.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:07 AM on June 19, 2015

Winehouse died because alcoholism kills, and the superstructure of Pitchfork-style handwringing about how it was Our Gaze that Killed Her seems to me to miss that hard and simple point.
posted by thelonius at 3:27 AM on June 19, 2015 [12 favorites]

I just don't think it is that simple. With my tendency toward self-loathing and perfectionism, I can't even begin to imagine how I could stay sober in the face of the kind of public shaming she had to wake up to each morning.
posted by gimli at 4:52 AM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I made a comment on Facebook or Twitter a few years before she died about Winehouse being a fuck up, but I still love her voice.

Jesus, who fucking cares what I think? This is why I quit Facebook and Twitter.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:11 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

If it wasn't for public speaking nobody would ever realize they have no idea what to say.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:19 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

This article is great.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:53 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

This article is great.

Thanks, I kind of regret highlighting the bit that discusses the blame for her death as everyone seems to be getting stuck on that point. I thought that there was much more to the article than that, especially in terms of its take on her lyrics, delivery and production.
posted by beisny at 7:59 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I found the second half of the article, in particular, where he discusses the whole album (Back to Black) to be really touching. I have long been a fan of Amy's, and I still am.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:59 PM on June 19, 2015

I kind of regret highlighting the bit that discusses the blame for her death as everyone seems to be getting stuck on that point.

I don't regret that you did, because it entirely ruins it for me in a few bad apples spoil the bunch sort of way.

What a bunch of condescending high horsing bullshit. It's a really popular narrative structure to sound deep, meaningful, and heartfelt and stuff but no. Fuck off with that.

This is not like, fame and us paying attention and being gross popcorn snacking media consumers fault. This is the same thing that kills people no one pays attention to in basements all the time.

It's sad, and fucked up, and it had nothing to do with us. It's shameful and digusting they even tried to sell it that way and they're assholes.
posted by emptythought at 4:38 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Man, emptythought, I have to say that it's hard to believe anybody can erase the shit that was done to her by the media from their minds. She had people reviewing her with articles that literally started with the sentence "We're all waiting for Amy Winehouse to die." But apparently that's just fine with you? Not a problem, then?
posted by koeselitz at 12:11 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

And - I have to say that I'm kind of offended that you think we're being exclusive here and saying that Amy was the only one who died of something society doesn't understand and doesn't care about. This is the problem with what happened to her: we treat addiction like a joke or some unspeakable moral failing or else a romantic tragic flaw. It's none of those things, and it's shitty when we act like that, because without that attitude we might be able to save a lot of lives. Am I crazy for feeling this way?
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 PM on June 20, 2015

I don't know. I still think it's a pretty big, finger wagging, tongue clucking gap between some writers saying disgusting things and us all being complicit or whatever.

I'm not erasing those crappy statements in the media from my mind, and i don't even think that the joke/moral failing/romantic flaw thing comes in to play here. I just think this is as much everyone's fault as anyone else we lost this way, and that the extra leap of us somehow like, fucking the life out of her by looking on is BS.

It's just such a popular concept to look at it that way when really it's more like... She was a wealthy adult, who wanted to live like this. Short of baker acting her or something, what could everyone have done? Being more compassionate about addiction in general is a great goal, but saying what happened here is like all of our faults just doesn't sit well with me. It feels more aspirational and shame-y than real.
posted by emptythought at 2:07 PM on June 21, 2015

« Older "At this point, I started banging my head against...   |   Hipster New York Health Advice Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments