So much has been written in the last few days about Amy Winehouse’s premature but sadly unsurprising death at 27 that I can’t add anything new, except to note again, as I did in my Peter Falk entry, how downright jackal-like and ugly the tabloid press is when it comes to troubled celebs. (Of course, as disgusting as TMZ is, the British press has been expert for decades in digging up unnecessary dirt.)
The singing that is heavily vaunted these days in the American mainstream (where soulless pap reigns supreme) is the pitch-perfect kind of emotionless swill that wins on American Idol and fills Vegas arenas (Celine Dion). Winehouse, on the other hand (and her un-addicted — as far as we know — countrywomen Adele and Joss Stone), was definitely connected to the great soul and jazz vocalists who gave emotional performances of songs, rather than technically perfect renditions of them.
Her addictions clearly linked her to Billie and Janis, but she had much more money at her disposal than either of those songbirds ever had (thus the sheer volume of drugs she was taking). She was also covered by the press in a nonstop fashion; Holliday and Joplin never had paparazzi camping outside their houses. Thus, her disease was in the public view for as long as she had it — and, of course, the song that “broke” her in America was perhaps the anthem of contemporary addiction (“Rehab”).
You can find an enormous amount of detail about Amy on the Web (too much in fact — and, yes, a few of the commentaries since her death have been extremely mean). I’ll just direct you to two of my favorite clips of her in performance.
The first is a beautiful version of the evergreen “Teach Me Tonight” done for the Jools Holland show (where she also performed “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”):
And the second is a live performance at the Mercury Prize ceremony in 2007 of one of her own songs, one that she seemed to always perform with a great deal of emotion — the final complete concert she performed in Belgrade (which is available on YT, but I’m not going to link to it) contained a sad and uncomfortable version of the tune. Here she’s in fine shape and excellent voice (again, I don’t give a shit about pitch-perfection, it’s the emotion in the delivery) singing “Love is a Losing Game” (an alternate great live version is here):