If Amy Winehouse had been a tiny bit more reasonable, you would have never heard of her.
I’m so sick of hearing, “Oh, Amy Winehouse, such a wasted talent.” What made her famous was her defiance. If you loved her, it was because of her defiance; if you hated her, it was for the same. Her defiance and talent were the same thing. She was no “candle in the wind,” she did exactly what the hell she wanted to, and no one could stop her.
If Amy Winehouse had been a tiny bit more reasonable, you would have never heard of her. You don’t just come into a society obsessed with making celebrities into role models and “protecting” children with a shallow, infantile entertainment industry, and start singing about how you are going to do what the hell you want to even if it kills you. At some point, everyone is supposed to come to the altar and see the error of their ways, and it is scary for a society like ours to see someone who refuses to do that. In a culture of shame and judgment, someone who defies them is dangerous, must be mocked, hated, and finally when the inevitable comes, re-integrated into social acceptability in death, where she refused to be in life.
The way this is done is to separate her talent from who she was, declare the one great and the other flawed, a tragic victim whose promise was cut short by not coming to the altar soon enough. Then you can have a neat object lesson for everyone: you can be this, if you don’t be that. Bullshit. Interesting people have interesting problems, and really interesting people have insane problems. Nobody sounded like her, nobody said the things she said. She wasn’t the sort to do shrieky, well-behaved pop about about a teenage dream and fireworks. She had a rough voice, liked rough men, and truly didn’t give a fuck. If you liked her work, you have to take the good with the bad. You can’t separate them into neat little boxes. Safe people can be pop stars, dangerous people become icons.
To know her and to love her, personally, must have been a horrible thing, because you had to watch her destroy herself in front of you and know there wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it. It is awful to lose someone like that, but it was her life and belonged to her, even if she wanted to destroy it. You know how bad choices make interesting stories? She had a very interesting story. We would not know her otherwise.