I was saddened to hear of British songstress Amy Winehouse’s death today. Not completely surprised, since news stories over the past several years illustrated her problems with addiction, but still saddened.
I found her voice mesmerizing in its power and soulfulness. Her songs had such a fun, retro feel with lyrics that betrayed their currency: the horns and the backing vocals were so very Sixties, but the lyrics were pure Millennium. Would Peggy Lee or Dusty Springfield have sung the line “What kind of f**kery is this?” To my untrained ears, the track production sounded slightly distorted and scratchy, as if they were remasters of an analog recording. And her look was rockabilly chic, with a treacherous looking beehive, tattoos and stiletto heels.
Her songs were used to define a time period that wasn’t even her own. Remember how “You Know I’m No Good” was used in early ad campaigns for AMC’s “Mad Men”? That song perfectly summed up the character of Don Draper, a man who viewers were still getting to know while his wife Betty remained in the dark for a little while longer.
I enjoyed singing her songs at karaoke, and one in particular helped me through a very dark period of my life four and a half years ago. “Back to Black” is a song not just about the end of a relationship, but also about addiction and dependency. Having dated an addict, I can tell you that the relationship an addict has with their drug of choice is one that is extremely hard to break, and relationships with real people suffer greatly. That was the case with my ex, and sadly, that seems to have been the case for Amy, too.