Musician Spotlight: Amy Winehouse
On July 23, 2013, it will be the two-year anniversary of the death of singer Amy Winehouse. For me, someone who became a fan a few months ago, her death feels like it happened yesterday. To become a fan of her and then realize you can never experience being a fan like those who listened to her before her death is a sad shock.
In fact, I’m still surprised that I became a fan of her music at all. Jazz, r &b, and soul aren’t exactly my favorite genres of music. These genres were actually up my dad’s alley. Sadly, it was my father’s death that caused me to look up her music. At the time, I needed to look up music for my father’s funeral service and Winehouse’s was the first thing I thought of.
However, I mistakenly thought that the song “Valerie” was originally done by Amy Winehouse. The song had piqued my interest in 2011 when I saw Bruno Mars do an excellent tribute performance of the song to honor Winehouse. It took some snide comments about Winehouse on YouTube and some research to see that Amy recorded a cover version of the song.
We ended up using piano music for my dad’s funeral. Nonetheless, Amy Winehouse still intrigued me. Her voice was so lovely and soulful, it made me melt. Soon, I ended up listening to Frank and Back to Black, the two albums Amy released during her lifetime. I also found out that Amy’s alcohol and drug use were the cause of the snide YouTube comments.
Both Frank and Back to Black impressed me. Not only were the vocals great, but the lyrics were amazingly creative. One song I remember sticking to me instantly was “Fuck Me Pumps”. I thought the song would be about Amy’s shoes, but discovered that the subject was actually the irony of whorish women. Furthermore, the song wasn’t jazz; it had a hip-hop vibe. As I read the lyrics while listening to the song I thought, “Amy Winehouse’s cheekiness is so cool.”
Another song that made an impression on me was “Back to Black”. I was moving my head to the rhythm when it stops. Suddenly, I hear heartbeats and then Amy’s voice solemnly singing, “Blackkk…. Blackkkk” with a bell tolling in the background. It gave me goosebumps! Then I thought, “Man, this is so sad, but so good.”
Finally, I looked up Winehouse’s performances for the songs I really liked. They were pretty good. Amy’s vocals were far from perfect, but they satisfied me. Most of the time, Amy did her best to give a good performance. She sang and danced a little while sipping a drink thanking her backup singers and band from time to time. Although, I think that some of her best work is her acoustic performances.
However, there were times that I was badly shocked by Amy. I looked at her 2008 Glastonbury concert for twenty minutes on YouTube and then couldn’t watch anymore. She looked so skinny, pained, and out of it. I remember cringing as I watched her struggle to perform and thought, “What the heck happened to you?” The concert lead me to try to research more about her, but there weren’t a lot of decent articles about her. The best I could do was the 2007 Rolling Stone cover story, which made me feel sorry for her.
In the end, Amy Winehouse was a great musician who fused the sounds of the past with the present. However, she was also a human being who conveyed vulnerability, emptiness, depression, and self-hatred. She tried to pour her humanity into her songs, but it wasn’t enough. And so, she left us. I hope she’s happier now and knows that she will be forever loved and missed.
Here is a video of Amy performing her song “Love is a Losing Game” at the DL Show