Originally appeared in the Hindu Metroplus in July 2011.
The dizzying heights of stardom and the spiralling lows were all commonplace to the rock star lifestyle that singer Amy Winehouse led. On Saturday, July 23, Winehouse was found dead at her home in Camden, north London due to “unexplained causes” according to local police. The online social network world quickly poured out grief, pain and tributes to the ‘down-to-earth diva’, though there were certainly comments posted on Twitter saying that “everybody saw it coming.”
Even such comments indicate the polarity that divided fans, music critics and even fellow musicians in their critique of the singer-songwriter. While one portion of listeners were so taken in by the endless media intrusion into the singer’s drug, alcohol and marital problems, the other half wouldn’t care any less so long as the raw intensity and talent existed in her soul-laden croons. Such was the grey area of appreciation that Amy Winehouse was caught in.
Shalmali Kholgade, a singer-songwriter from Mumbai who draws inspiration from Winehouse is devastated at the news. “Amy Winehouse gave too much to the world and didn’t get enough in return. She was and always will be the pillar of freedom and expression,” she says.
Although she was not considered a role model in many ways, Winehouse did seem to have the effect of liberation on several female artists – especially from the UK – who stormed the Britpop scene. Lily Allen, Duffy and Adele, who have gained much success worldwide, notably credit Winehouse for their “Nirvana moment”, as Spin magazine editor Charles Aaron famously said. Others attributed the revival of jazz, soul and R&B music to her critically and commercially-acclaimed albums ‘Frank’ and ‘Back to Black’.
With the latter album, the year 2008 in music undoubtedly belonged to the ‘Rehab’ singer. After releasing her second album ‘Back to Black’, Winehousecreated history at the Grammy awards that year. She became the first female artist to win in five out of the six categories she was nominated for – the maximum Grammy nods for a female solo vocalist.
Vidhi Gandhi, editor at music webzine Chordvine, says she shared an emotional connect with Winehouse’s songs because of the much apparent male-bashing the soul singer penned down in her lyrics. “She (Winehouse) was a brilliant songwriter. I can’t believe the news I’m seeing right now,” she says.
Singer-songwriter Ashima Aiyer also bemoans the loss. “It is really sad. The news of Winehouse’s death came as a shock to me. With her passing, it’s a waste of a great talent. She did have new material that I was looking forward to listening to,” Ashima says.
Winehouse dies at the age of 27, which is coincidentally the same age when musical legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison passed on. But even as conspiracy theorists welcome another member to ‘Death club 27’, one can establish another clear link between all the pioneers. Despite their superior musical dexterity, a strong lure made them deviate and become careless wrecks. Amy Winehouse too, treaded this path and now leaves behind a legacy of music that thematically delved on everything her life was – painful yet ecstatic, but without regrets.