Round Midnight

During the afternoon’s play at the Test Match on Saturday I picked up on Twitter the sad news of the death, at the age of 27, of singer Amy Winehouse, an event which susbsequently stirred up the internet pondlife as much and as tastelessly as the actions of Anders Behring Breivik.  I don’t really follow pop music much these days, but Amy Winehouse caught my ear when she recorded a version of the Thelonious Monk jazz classic Round Midnight and I was impressed that she had taken on such challenging material, although the track itself is horribly overproduced.

For what it’s worth I think that Amy Winehouse was an exceptionally talented singer, in an age that celebrates mediocrity rather than talent, although she sadly never came to terms with her addictions to drugs and alcohol. I feel sadness at her passing, not least because her potential remained largely unfulfilled. For those who cling to the belief that taking drugs somehow accompanies or even enhances musical ability, I can only offer this quote from another supremely gifted but tragically dissolute singer, Billie Holiday:

Dope never helped anybody sing better or play music better or do anything better. All dope can do for you is kill you – and kill you the long, slow, hard, way.

Billie was 44 when she died, so she lasted longer than Amy, but they trod a similar path. Both made great music despite, and in no way because of, being drug addicts.

As well as sadness, though, I also feel disgust, as much for the vultures picking over Amy Winehouse’s remains after her death as for the parasites that profited from her addiction during her life.  No addict can be cured of his or her addiction by another person – one has to take control of oneself in order to do that – but that does not make it right to simply mock a junkie as the newspapers did relentlessly with Amy Winehouse, willing the car crash to happen. Well, it worked. She’s dead now. I hope they’re proud.

Amy Winehouse’s life and death represent a kind of Shakespearean tragedy, in that her character contained the seeds of its own destruction and that her life seems largely to have been acted out for the “enjoyment” of others. I hope  her death serves as a warning to those youngsters who have been tempted to emulate her.  There are enough dangers in the world without being a danger to yourself.

Rest in Peace, Amy Winehouse (1983-2011).

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One Response to “Round Midnight”

  1. “Back to Black” is a VERY good album, one of my favourite albums of any “new” artist of the last 5-6 years. I haven’t really listened much to “Frank”, her first album (named, apparently, after Frank Sinatra). She had a great voice, and showed on BTB that she was a talented, gifted songwriter too. From the little I know, it was her relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil which led to her decent into hard drug addiction. Although, I did also hear that she was into dope before meeting him. She clearly had an addictive personality, which seems to be so common amongst creative people. And, as Paul Gambaccini said on Radio5 on Monday morning, the wealth a successful pop star makes gives them the ability to consume 10 times more drugs, but their body’s ability to tolerate it does not increase 10 times.

    To be the umpteenth pop/rock star of the last 45 years to join the “27 club” is sad. Very sad.

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