Amy Winehouse, To Know You Was to Love You
Most knew her for her well documented substance abuse and personal problems, which is a damn shame because it’s not even a fraction of the force, talent, beauty and voice that was Amy Winehouse.
Channeling Motown, blues, jazz and soul she quickly commanded attention for her inimitable voice and singularly unique persona. Oozing sexuality and unabashedly speaking to the darker sides of human impulse Amy Winehouse was a true anomaly. Her voice would have sounded natural in some dim lit jazz longue set fifty years past, instead she channeled a voice from a generation past with lyrics that could have only gotten airplay today . Indeed her incendiary debut is looked upon as the inception point for many empowered female talents that have come up since.
Amy’s music was tragically at once fueled by and overtaken by a destructive lifestyle. She spoke of addiction and shunned redemption. Her default anthem Rehab is one example of her unapologetic nature; at once acknowledging her demons and refusing the exorcism. Other examples are evidenced in the sexually charged twisted tale she spins in the jazzy You Know I’m No Good which pales in brazenness to I Heard Love Is Blind and still more to the brassy tell off Stronger Than Me. Stronger also has a must-hear scat intro and a line only Winehouse could have delivered “I’m not going to meet your mother anytime, I just want to grip your body over mine”
If slow scorchers like her soul hit and fan favorite Love is a Losing Game, or the bluesy heartbreaker Wake Up Alone are any indication Winhouse’s romantic escapades also served as a double edged sword of inspiration and destruction. Singing “I stay up clean the house/least I’m not drinking/ Run around just so I don’t have to think about thinking” its apparent that depression lead to destructive means of distraction. For anyone who has ever experienced a relationship like the one described in the softly spoken guitar driven ballad Best Friends, self medication as a distraction is a default setting; as evidenced in Wake Up Alone when she utters the heartrending lines “This ache in my chest/cause my day is done now/the dark covers me and I cannot run now.”
It was in these enormously personal ballads that she showcased her fragile vulnerability, something she struggled to balance with a highly public profile while simultaneously struggling with addiction and bouts of depression.
It was a cocktail of the Molotov kind, drug abuse ultimately acting as an incendiary agent that consumed a promising and powerful voice. However, this isn’t a tabloid this is a tribute to an artist. It’s impossible to speak of Amy and ignore the dark parts in her life; she herself was never one to shy away from acknowledging the dark, after all she lived the blues.
Her career was one of blindingly stellar highlights, garnering five Grammys by the time she was 24 among many other accolades. She did nothing halfheartedly, her highs were dizzyingly high and her lows were devastatingly low. Finding the middle ground to walk in such a state must have been difficult especially with added media scrutiny. Indeed it is a plight many artists face, the struggle to balance the duality of expressing so publicly issues that are more times than not something they feel very intimately.
However it’s important to remember it wasn’t all tears, sex and heartbreak. Amy Winehouse also had a killer sense of humor displayed in the ever so subtly titled Fuck Me Pumps or the extra cheeky green loving anthem Addicted.
From blues, soul, jazz and rock her vocalizations could hypnotize you into believing your senses had been transposed fifty years back when covering greats like Someone to Watch Over Me as most famously sung by Ella Fitzgerald or for a signature modern sound on an a classic, her version of Its My Party, one of her last released recordings on Quincy Jone’s Q: Soul Bossa Nostra .
Her vibrancy was apparent on songs like the seldom played Hey Little Rich Girl and especially palpable on her version of Valerie on Mark Ronson’s Versions, where Ronson ,in a stroke of genius, kept in Amy’s candid “…having too much fun” just before band kicks up.
Immensely talented, refreshingly honest and devastatingly original the loss of an artist like Amy Winehouse strikes so close to home for so many because of the level of intimacy they connected to her on. Through seemingly endless heartbreaks or all consuming depression, like those spoken of in Back to Black hers was a voice that was powerful enough to lift people up, either through an empowered refrain like the one sung on Tears Dry on Their Own or through gentle guitar strumming on the playful interlude Cherry.
Indeed she has left an indelible mark on music. Her voice will be truly missed but never forgotten. Amy Winehouse, all there is left to say is thank you for the music. May you rest in peace, may your voice echo through all the ages.
**Most people know her for Rehab and while it’s a great song it does not even scratch the surface of her range in no particular order ten songs of Amy’s that I highly recommend giving a listen
1. Love is a Losing Game http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLB-BmYDPw0
2. He Can Only Hold Her http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XKYZRuJEnU
3. Hey Little Rich Girl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDnnXPSLzY8
4. Wake Up Alone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkLiYIDD794
5. You Sent Me Flying http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHddkSxHEEY
6. To Know Him Is To Love Him
7. Someone to Watch Over Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga-cBEPtzE0
*partial but her speech beforehand is worth it
9. Stronger Than Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aXmoBQPFRI