Say what you will about Amy Winehouse: her habits may have been questionable and her stage manner may have been deplorable, but she was talented. The young songstress was found dead in her London home on Saturday under “non-suspicious” circumstances. An autopsy earlier today resulted with inconclusive results, leaving many with the suspicions of substance-related death that can only be confirmed with toxicology results over the next coming weeks.
As news of her untimely death spreads across the globe in viral fashion, many have made their own judgments based on their particular experience of Winehouse’s triumphs and tribulations. Many more added her name to an illustrious list of musicians (including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix) who also met their end at the tender age of 27.
Regardless of status or coincidence, it can be said safely that the media has taken a stranglehold of coverage of the singer’s demise. Innumerable websites and publications took the opportunity to launch retrospectives of Winehouse’s career and its many ups-and-downs. Friends, relatives and colleagues of the young siren were featured across the board, oozing with genuine sentiment and unnerving vulnerability.
Others took a more despicable, if not questionable, approach to the tragedy. In similar fashion to Michael Jackson’s Thriller upon his death, Winehouse’s six-time Grammy-award winning album Back To Black, shot up almost instantaneously to the top spot in the iTunes store. Microsoft’s U.K. branch, perhaps looking to piggyback on this phenomenon, was quick to launch a tweet reeking of exploitation, urging followers to “remember Amy Winehouse by downloading … Back To Black over at Zune”. In possibly more malicious fashion, The New York Post’s print edition featured lyrics from her single “Rehab” in one of the most egregious cases of “too soon” puns in recent history.
I, for one, will remember Winehouse for her deeply soulful voice, which echoed the great jazz singers of the past. Many will cite the now-prophetic pangs of “Rehab”, or the easy, drawling hooks of “Back To Black”. Even more will look to the non-musical news regarding Winehouse, including her much-publicized drug and alcohol abuse and her last and most infamous comeback “performance” on June 18th in Belgrade. For me, the highlight of her career was the track “Valerie”, which was included in friend and colleague Mark Ronson’s 2007 album Version. The track, originally penned by the British group The Zutons, circled around a soulful, but still rock-oriented swing, bolstered by ringing guitars and a small horn section. When Ronson and Winehouse set to task on the tune, the old-school jazz charm absolutely popped. Where rough edges had previously curbed the song’s appeal, Winehouse’s improvised crooning and warbled tremolo reaches out through the speakers and grabs the listener by the ears. Compare the two versions below.
RIP Amy Winehouse