“I fell in love with someone who I would have died for. And that’s like a real drug, isn’t it?” – Amy Winehouse
Amy’s death was one of those cultural events – like the passing of Whitney Houston and Ginger Spice fleeing the nest – where you turn to each other in conversation and ask, ‘Where were you when it happened?’
I was packing up my tiny room at university to come home for good after three years of partying, busying myself with being upset about the break up I was in the midst of, the prospect of graduating with no job and the fact that I was waving goodbye to my last dose of freedom. To make things worse, I had already taken my laptop home so only had the fat-stained kitchen radio to entertain me as I piled up boxes and packed away memories.
I was pulling down posters and half listening to Radio 1 when the music stopped. Amy Winehouse was dead.
I called out to my housemates about the news and one of them called back, ‘So what? She’s a crack whore.’
Well housemate, who I actually happen to love dearly, please watch this film. I think – in fact I know – that you and everyone else who took this view will change your minds. Casting aside the beehive which looks like a nightmare to maintain, the tattoos, drugs and celebrity status, she was just a 27 year old girl who couldn’t cope with the pressure of sky-rocketing to success. I’m not sure I could handle it either if i’m honest; my twenties have been tough enough without all the trimmings so I, no doubt, would have curled up into a ball and cried. Amy dealt with it in the only way she knew how: to self destruct.
I didn’t expect the film to tell me anything I didn’t know to be honest and I wasn’t sure how the making of it sat with me morally, but I needed a distraction last night and it came in the form of this. As I sat in my comfy chair however, with a share bag of Minstrels and a bottle of water, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat uncomfortable. Why were we all here? Why had we all bought tickets to this? To watch a young girl’s slow demise into death whilst eating sugary snacks? Basically, yes. It was a form of twisted entertainment to fill an otherwise empty Monday evening. Humans are strange, I thought.
But then, around three minutes in, I understood it. I got lost in her story. Her huge eyes. Her changing appearance. Her journey into drug addiction. Her wish to be left alone. The biopic wasn’t intended to flatter Amy, nor was it dishing out airs and graces in that wonderful, omniscient state of retrospect. It was simple, real and fair.
I was interested to see how Blake Fielder, her ex-husband, was going to be portrayed. I think we all were. In truth, it seemed as though she was a little bit obsessed with him, which is how love should be. Or at least how I think it should be. All-consuming. Can’t live without each other. So I wouldn’t blame Blake and I wouldn’t blame Amy. She just fell hard. Arguably a lot harder than him.
As for her family and friends, her dad doesn’t come off in the best light. Seeming to only rear his paternal head when money was involved or there was a camera watching, he missed all of the signs that his daughter was about to implode, despite them being crystal clear and staring him in the face for years. Her friends, on the other hand, were clearly dying to stop her dying.
But more than just satisfying my peanut crunching need to know about her personal life, the film taught me something important: it taught me about her very real influence on creative music.
And this is where I feel the need to apologise.
Although I have been a fan of Amy since the glory days of T4 on a Sunday morning, I questioned her status as a legend. I was led to believe that she didn’t write her own music and that her image stemmed from a dream that was constructed by Mark Ronson. Turns out, that information about her was wrong too. She wrote her own lyrics – or poetry as she called it – drawn from a place of pain, obsession and love. And her image? A by-product of her environment. Or perhaps just another creative outlet. Either way, it was all her.
Her bodyguard said something in the film that has stuck with me: “This was someone who was trying to disappear.” And I believe it. Physically, she was trying to make herself smaller and smaller and mentally, she was taking whatever she could to escape the paparazzi and her own reality.
Well, Amy, you have your wish. You are gone now, but unfortunately, not forgotten.