I must introduce you to someone you may have already been introduced to. Her name is Amy Winehouse and she has a very special place in my heart. I have been listening to her for years, but it was not until recently that I began to truly hear her through her music. As she said in interviews, the best place to find her is through her music. I have done this and, let me assure you, there is much to learn from her. For one thing, each time you listen to her, you can hear her soul. It is a beautiful experience. Amy had an old soul. Now, what sometimes happens in music, is the choice between soul and technique/talent. Some singers can do very well at singing technically correct and in a way that many would consider “good”. Others are skilled at conveying the emotion of what they are singing about. It is going to the next level, though, to do both. Amy could do both. Listening to her, it seems that she is a mixture of Donny Hathaway, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan, all of whom she has paid tribute to by covering some of their songs. And when she covers them, she really covers them. These are difficult songs to sing, particularly considering the competition that she is up against. As with all covers, the new version will be laid against the original for comparison. There is always a certain expectation for the cover. The cover artist must make the song their own while still putting on a worthy musical experience. Originality must not be the only redeeming quality. Though potentially daunting of a task, Amy came through. What was it that made her magic? Authenticity. This, I believe, was the key to all of her success—and not just her covers.
Also a writer, Amy has written some of the most beautiful, haunting music I have encountered. Though known especially for her hit “Rehab“, a song in which Amy blatantly refuses to get treatment for her alcohol addiction, Amy also wrote songs like “Me and Mr. Jones”, “Wake Up Alone”, “Help Yourself”, “F Me Pumps”, and “When My Eyes”, which dealt with loneliness, trying to improve oneself, the culture of men-seeking women, and teenage aspirations. In her music, one knew when she was up or when she was down. Many times, she could flip between these two in the same verse. And, of course, to say that Amy was only ever “up” or “down” is disrespectful and ignorant of the complexities that dripped in her music.
As if this wasn’t enough by itself, something people may be unfamiliar with is the amount of charity that she contributed to. Never choosing to give press conferences or photo sessions, Amy went on her own time to help those in need. The vast array of organizations she was known to support included Adopt-A-Minefield, Anti-Slavery International, Breast Cancer Campaign, CARE, Children of the Andes, Children’s Medical Research Institute, Christian Children’s Fund, City at Peace, Comic Relief, Dreams Can Be Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Greenpeace, Healthlink Worldwide, Heifer International, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, Red Cross, LIFEbeat, LifeLine & Rape Crisis PMB, Opportunity International, Oxfam, ROTA, Rights and Humanity, S.A.F.E., Save the Children, Sharon Osborne Colon Cancer Program, Snoop Youth Football League, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Teenage Cancer Trust, The BRIT Trust, Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, Little Dreams Foundation, Lotus Outreach, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Toothfairy Foundation, Trade Plus Aid, UNHCR, UNICEF, WaterAid, and World Neighbors. She also paid for a stranger’s surgery, paid for a friend to go to rehab, and took in a homeless girl for six months. She even made cups of tea for the paparazzi that stalked her home relentlessly, which is a far cry from the celebrities who only give the paparazzi the middle finger.
Amy was not just a singer or a guitar player or an aspiring drummer or songwriter or fashion designer or helper, but she was a spirit, an enigma, that rarely comes along on this Earth. Forget about her addictions. The curious can find plenty of articles that state document her bad days. It is amazing to think that, until she was fifteen, Amy just wanted to be a roller-skating waitress. And I imagine she would have been great at that, but things turned out differently. She was only here on this Earth for 27 years, but the richness of life she provided will never be re-created. Other artists may share similar stories or appreciate the same types of music, but Amy was unique. She was a loving genius who loved and was loved. It was not just that she was a great artist, but a great human. And when you find someone like that, you simply must let them into your life and never let go.
Much love to Amy. May her soul rest now.
Reader, if you have any experience with Amy Winehouse, please share down in the comments section.