Amy’s music is personal to the extreme. She lived the life she expressed in her songs. Her inner eye recorded all her feelings and emotions which she put into poetry, the lyrics of her songs.
I never latched on to Amy Winehouse when she was still alive. I thought she was hyped too much at the time. Her music was too subtle to reach me thru the noise of the crowd. Only after her death, once the hubbub had died down, I started to listen to her voice, her way of singing, her lyrics & music.
Jazz was the vehicle, the means, the meme, to carry and translate the subtleties of her thoughts and feelings into music. It could only have been Jazz. No other genre could have encompassed her talent and creativity.
She wasn’t a pop diva, she was a Jazz musician. She wasn’t a pop diva - that is what some people tried to make of her, to exploit her talent. She was a Jazz musician, who, surrounded by the right people, singlehandedly brought Jazz (back) to the masses and in doing so influenced an entire generation, her generation.
And then her voice, my God, her vocals; the ease with which she sang, her spot-on timing, her phrasing, pure talent. With so much surplus quality, she could have sung her songs until she was 80. She never made 80, she died aged 27, July 23, 2011.
She was a very old soul in a young woman’s body.
So what happened? Why did she become a '27 Club' inductee instead of entering Jazz’s hall of fame (which she still might, posthumously)?
Was it a self-destructive streak built into her DNA? Was it her environment - the evil Blake, her boyfriend - that did her in? Drugs always make up for a great alibi. Maybe. However, I think it was something else. I think it was a case of demasiado corazón. She had too much heart to survive in this heartless world.
When you feel that this world is too much for you to handle, then people call you depressed. But what if your spirit is actually so out of sync with the physical realm it is cast in, that it is crying to be released from this plane?
What if Amy, in trying to play the game by the rules of this world, in effect killed herself?
Song of the Siren
'Love is a losing game' is one of her songs that has always intrigued me the most. When I first listened to it, I got carried away. I tended to agree with the notion of that song. But then something else kicked in. I started to sense a contradiction. Love is a losing game? Wait a minute…
This is not what I believe in. To me, love is a force of nature, stronger than gravity. Love is God. God is Love. To me, love is a reality, not a game, not something to be played with. When you treat love as a game, you will lose more than your life, you will lose your soul.
Amy lost that game, but it wasn’t out weakness, at least, I don’t think so. She wasn't weak, she was vulnerable.
Blake was weak; at least that’s how I perceive him. A weak man with issues. Not a bad man per se, but weak. His status with Amy changed a couple of times over the years, from boyfriend to fiancé, from ex to husband and back to ex again, which can only be attributed to the complexity of their relationship.
“Her whole thing was: She wanted to feel how he felt” - ’Spiky’ Phil Meynell, Amy, the documentary (2015)
She wanted to feel how he felt.
This is what flashed me back to another tragedy: Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo
This movie recounts the real-life story of then 14-year-old Christiane who, living with her mother and little sister in Berlin, gets involved with Detlef, a local hero, who's in a clique where everybody's on drugs. Step by step Christiane gets drawn deeper into this scene and into the pit.
Christiane starts using drugs because she wants to feel what Detlef feels, she wants to be as close to him as is humanly possible; she wants to see the world through his eyes. There are more similarities between Christiane and Amy. A broken up home, the need for a father (figure) and an above average sensitivity.
Christiane would attain fame status and notoriety after going public with her book and the subsequent movie release. She would narrowly escape death at a young age. It seemed like she could become anything she wanted, but she didn't want to be anything. Christiane is still among us, aged 57, although drugs have never left her life. Amy isn’t. This is where the comparison ends.
If Christiane didn't want to become anything, then, in contrast, Amy became everything...
Drugs like heroin open up doors that never really close again. You can stay away from the door of addiction, but the nasty draft that is seeping through the keyhole keeps on affecting you indefinitely.
Amy wanted to be on the same level, at the same wavelength if you will, as Blake - but she wasn’t. Amy was in a league of her own, she was tuned to her own very specific frequency. So are we all; but unlike most of us, Amy’s frequency enabled her to resonate with millions through the art she created.
So when she stepped down to Blake's frequency, was this an act of love? If so, did this make her weak too? Consequently, is love a weakness? I don’t think so. To me, love never fails, lest it isn’t 'love' in the first place.
When I listen to Amy, observe her, I see a very strong-willed young woman, that was able to express herself at near perfection. But she - as are we all - was embedded in a far from perfect world, surrounded by both strong and weak people, people who loved her to death and people who were (at least partially) at the cause of her untimely demise.
I see a strong fellow human being in Amy, but how did Amy see herself? I can’t help but think that she had a far more negative self-image than the outside world gives her credit for.
Revelled as the new Jazz revelation she greatly attributed to the (re-)popularisation of the genre. She wanted to be a Jazz musician and became one. She was a Jazz musician.
The success of her music however probably had a completely different meaning to her than it did to the rest of the world. It probably gave her a sense of accomplishment but what was next? Back to black?
"I don’t really watch [look at] stuff like that. It sounds like a line, you know. The more I throw it out, the less you probably believe that I actually see stuff like that, but I fuckin’ don’t. What if I really thought I was famous, I’d fucking go and tuck myself or something because it’s frightening; You know what I mean, it’s a scary thing. Very scary" - Amy, Brit Awards (2007)
Amy might have had a negative self-image. Maybe, but she was very self-aware. Her debut spiraled her unto the world stage.
So what if you find yourself all at once at the top of a mountain you never really aspired to scale in the first place? The veal drops and there is the view on a world you are having a hard time to make sense of. Vertigo? Or rather, a sense that the whole world is about to crash on top of you? Fear? Maybe…
I cheated myself,
Like I knew I would,
I told you I was trouble,
You know, I think she made herself believe that she was no good. If that is what you believe you are, then you (can) become that person.
I don’t believe for one second she was no good. However, I do believe she was struggling to make sense of this insane world. Something we all (have to) do to a certain extent. In her case, everything was compressed and expanded, skewed and distorted on a much larger scale. Who of us wouldn’t dip under in this sea of madness? or drown? as Amy did…
When you smoke all my weed man
You gots to call the green man
So I can get mine and you get yours
I'm my own man
Amy was her own woman. Lots of people smoked her weed. All of it, and gave nothing in return. She did not get hers from this life. Maybe she will receive it in the next one.
Rest in peace, Amy