Sunday, 26 May 2013

Thoughts on Amy

This is a piece I wrote on 26th July 2011, the week Amy Winehouse died. The piece I wanted to post this week is taking a little longer so I thought I'd share this with you instead.


I was at Laughs in the Park when I heard about Amy Winehouse. At first I assumed it was one of those weird, perverted twitter jokes that had snowballs out of control where someone announces (falsely) the death of a celebrity but sadly, that wasn't the case.

Interestingly, there seemed to be a degree of restraint on twitter, regarding jokes about her passing. One 'comedian' did text me a crap joke about the fact that she shouldn't have said 'no, no, no to rehab' (and honestly, my paraphasing makes it ten times funnier than it was). As the 'joke' pinged up on my phone I wished there was an app that allowed you to delete your number from someone else's phone.

Even before her death you rarely heard her referenced by comics in their sets.  Probably because she was considered a soft target. Her, the fish, us, the marksman, her life, the barrel.

Instead, on twitter there were messages of condolence and shock from all quarters. Somehow, this death seems to have hit the heart of all of us. Some people (Kelly Osbourne) went a bit OTT. She took time out of her uber grieving to tweet  "i cant even breath [sic] right now im crying so hard i just lost 1 of my best friends'. Whilst I'm sure she is devastated, tweets of this nature reek of insincerity and narcissism  If you're such great friends and you're so saddened, tell her family, privately and in an appropriate way. Don't go on Twitter and tell the world because guess what, the world doesn't revolve around you and how you're feeling.

Others felt that Amy's early death was as inevitable as a broken promise from Nick Clegg but personally, I was shocked. I suppose I saw her as a kind of comedy car crash not a real one. Someone who teetered knowingly along the lines of sanity and sobriety and was essentially, just having a good time. But seeing her performance at her Serbian tour stop which will sadly, in part, be how she is remembered, made me comprehend to what depths she had sunk prior to her demise.

To put things in perspective, most performers will have a tale or two of going on stage either massively hungover or a little tipsy, sometimes both.  I remember being in a particularly energetic stage adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin. The night before one performance I stayed out til 3am necking vodkas with mates. The next day I spent the entire play wishing I could blurt out Rumpelstiltskin's name so I could just go and collapse in a dark dressing room somewhere.  (This is meaningless if you're unfamiliar with the story but basically, saying his name out loud would have concluded the story immediately). Now, I very rarely even have a drink before I do a gig as it leaves me feeling completely out of kilter.

So when I see Amy take to the stage in such a state that she can barely stand, is incomprehensible and keeps disappearing off stage for God knows what, leaving the band in a position that's become only too familiar to them, of covering until or worse, if she returns, it dawned on me that things were perhaps worse than any of us had realised.

Online the less generously-spirited among us expressed disbelieve that someone who seemingly had it all could choose to throw it away. Perhaps what they're missing is the fact that Winehouse was ill. she was in the grip of an addiction so strong that it reduced her options to that of simply satisfying those demons that would never stop demanding of you your full attention, your you, until it consumes you whole, spitting out nothing.

Dramatic words but it was a dramatic life. Troubled, talented and tragic is how I imagine she'll be remembered.
And now she’s sitting at the table of the 27 Club. I like to imagine the others, Kurt, Janice and Robert welcoming her with a spliff, a glass of fine whiskey and pack of Marlboro reds. The troubles are gone and just the light remains. The room's full of the greats, just jamming and as she walks in, Jimi hands her a mic and simply says 'you're home now'.

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