Sunday, 24 July 2011

Goodbye Amy.


"I'm not surprised" was the resounding conclusion on Twitter. I was.

Without going in to specifics I've spent most of my life around addiction, and it's a long time since I was amazed by the toxic volumes people can put in to their bodies and survive, the terrifyingly dangerous situations they can stumble through unscathed, and the heartfelt promises to stop they can't keep. The point at which most of us would have found shocking or surprising was probably a road bump long since passed. By the time someone actually does go too far, they've usually gone further than we can possibly imagine.

Like a lot of Londoners, I met Amy Winehouse once. It was years ago with my sister in Kentish town, she started pointing and saying to her boyfriend "look, those two are so pre-eeyy" as if we were puppies she'd like to take home. Not quite sure what to say we just told her we were fans of her album at the time "Frank" and ducked out of the way. I remember thinking how strange it was that she was Amy Winehouse, yet she seemed insecure. The stories about her hadn't reached our ears at that point, we were just impressed by her brave, honest (and funny) songwriting, not to mention that voice. 

Fast forward to last night as I watched people blame Amy, the people around her for not intervening, the media for their callousness - the list was endless and totally understandable, but wrong all the same. Addiction is a disease, and it often ends up killing its victims. It's hard to sympathise with because the outward appearance is that the addict doesn't care and it's their fault for not trying hard enough. Apart from the mental side of it, the physical experience can be a similar urge to needing to eat when you're starving or drink when you're parched - for those who blame Amy I hope they ask themselves if they would be strong enough to suppress an urge that severe every single day. For those who feel her family should have intervened further, short of tying someone up and never letting them out again there's nothing you can really do to stop them. You just have to watch the person you love kill themselves slowly in front of you, and it's every bit as painful for you as it is for them. As for the media, it is our responsibility to hold them accountable for their behaviour before someone dies, not just blame them afterwards.

I keep seeing talk of how Amy Winehouse will forever be as defined by her addiction as she is by her music. I beg to differ. I think that is up to us. I choose to remember Amy for her inspirational yet down to earth songwriting, how her music got me through sad times or made me laugh out loud, her incredibly special voice, and how she opened the door for talented female artists who don't fit the mould, and don't hold back.     


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