Since the release of the Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy, I’ve seen many reviews claiming that the singer’s projection into fame was her ultimate downfall. It feels like journalists want us fans to feel guilty for killing Amy, when this simply isn’t true. I went and saw the film last week, and although I’ll say that the millions laughing at her very serious problem didn’t help; the real culprit was the disease that she suffered from both in the public eye and when she was totally alone. Enjoy.
The grave nature of drug addiction is often diminished in our society. We typically persecute the addict instead of realizing that they are suffering from a disease and need help. When you’re famous, people depend on you and want to exploit you for their own benefit. There were very few people in Amy’s life who were not doing this. You’re probably thinking, “Who was exploiting her disease more than we were?” The answer is no one. But, I truly believe that even if the public were entirely sympathetic to Amy’s problem, it wouldn’t have mattered.
The scene from Amy that really made this clear to me was when she won the Grammy for “Record of the Year”. This was when our love for Amy was at its zenith. We were rooting for her, but it didn’t matter. In the film, a friend of her said that right after she won the Grammy, Amy pulled her aside and said, “This is so boring without drugs.” All the fame could have disappeared, but the disease would have still been there. Towards the end of the film, Amy leaves London to seek refuge at a tropical paradise. This is when she stopped doing crack. But, her drinking only got worse. She was free of the paparazzi – at least until her shitbag father showed up – and she was still killing herself.
Speaking of her shitbag father, let’s talk about the shitbags that were bigger enablers – a term addiction specialists refer to as people who encourage substance abuse – than the public: her shitbag husband (Blake Fielder), her shitbag manager (Raye Cosbert), and again, her shitbag father (Mitch Winehouse). These were the people who really took advantage of Amy’s addiction.
Amy adored her husband. She referred to Blake as her twin. The two’s tumultuous relationship had shaped the break-up soul on Back to Black, written after a split that sent Amy spiraling. They later got back together and married. Soon after, Blake introduced Amy to crack. Watching the film, it’s clear that he used Amy’s affection to control her. Her father and manager did the same. They controlled Amy’s career, without regard for her health: booking shows when she was recovering, bringing press on their vacation that was meant to get her clean, and dismissing her problem, so she could work. Amy had never had a relationship with her father until she became famous. In retrospect, Amy’s early childhood trauma led to her to start abusing in the first place.
Instead of ending this unfocused rant with more sadness, I’ll share my fondest memory of Amy’s incredible music. I was 16, working as a junior counselor at a summer camp in Tallahassee. After all of the campers went to sleep, some of the counselors would stay up and sit outside the bathrooms, playing poker, listening to music, and eating junk food. One evening, our soundtrack was a mix of Winehouse songs.The sun was coming up as her croons filled the camp. There’s always been some magic in Amy’s voice that can turn any location into the coolest London jazz club. Those disgusting bathrooms became one my fondest memories of young summer life. This was Amy’s doing. The song that stands out most to me was one of her lesser known b-sides, “Addicted.” This final sentence could cleverly tie in the title of the song with the rest of this post, but I’d rather not spoil the memory.