When Amy Winehouse hit the mainstream music scene in 2007, within a matter of mere months, her name went from being a quintessential underground music blog topic, to being a glossy magazine cover story you just had to read. It’s a real shame that, for most listeners, the disturbing and controversial details of her personal life generally preceded – and eclipsed – her talents and her accomplishments. The popularity she gained that year with her best-selling album Back To Black opened doors for other female artists who refused to let others call all the shots. Amy started a musical revolution that not only revitalized British pop music, but also generated a renewed interest in soul music as exhibited by fellow Brits Adele and Duffy, as well as American musicians like relative newcomer Solange Knowles and R&B veteran Raphael Saadiq.
On July 23, 2011, when Amy was found dead in her London home, news of her passing spread like wildfire. Reactions to her death varied just as widely as opinions of her life and career. The judgmental comments and the tasteless jokes people posted on social networking sites were sick and disappointing. Addiction has no correlation with intelligence, moral value, or self-restraint. Addiction is an illness that often ends in tragedy. Addiction can happen to anyone.
Let’s remember Amy for being one of the best singer-songwriters of this generation. Let’s remember her for being jazzy on her debut album Frank and for Back To Black‘s soulfulness. Let’s remember her for her authenticity when it came to sharing her life’s experiences through her music. Let’s remember her for the ways her songs got us through our worst breakups. Let’s remember Amy for having a sense of humor, for doing things her own way, and for her iconic Ronnettes-inspired style: the beehive hair, the dramatic eyeliner, and the funky tattoos. Let’s remember her, not only as a cautionary tale about the dangers of drug addiction and alcoholism, but also for being an artist, and for being human.
Amy wasn’t just another troubled pop star. She was a woman who, in writing and singing and performing her songs, never forgot the fact that she was an artist, that she was a woman, and that, although she was influential, she was also imperfect. Whether you loved her or hated her, it’s as sure as the Earth is spherical that we at the very least owe her our respect for having both the ability and the guts to wear her heart on her (record) sleeve. Songs like “Rehab” and “Back To Black,” although wildly ubiquitous, are deeply and candidly intimate. Let’s remember her for giving so much of herself to her art, and for having given so much of herself to us.