The world was shocked on Saturday evening as the sad news broke of Amy Winehouse's death. Shocked, but seemingly not surprised – in all the news stories and in the many of the thousands of messages left on Twitter, was the underlying feeling that her fate was not entirely unexpected.
As yet, the cause of her death is unconfirmed, but there was a certain tragic inevitability about it wasn't there? I remember the first time I saw the young, curvy, strangely beautiful Amy on a weekend music show just after she had released her first album Frank. At the age of 19, she was already being hailed as a genius and, as I chatted to a friend about her, I said: "You look at this girl in three years' time – I'll put money on her being two stones lighter and addicted to something."
I hate that I was right. It didn't matter that her genre was soul – by the time her second album Back to Black was released, she was already the stick-thin epitome of rock stardom, and that was just the start.
So, Amy joins what has become known as the '27 club' – the tragic clutch of troubled stars who lost their battles with their devils and addictions, and met their maker when they should have been enjoying the prime of their life. Can it all be blamed on their celebrity? Was Amy a victim of her own meteoric rise to fame? It seemed that, for a character hell bent on self destruction, fame and fortune would be sure to see her plummet, rather than soar.
Why is fame craved and coveted by so many young people, who live in the belief that with it comes guaranteed happiness, when countless stars have proven that is not so? Amy was one of the most successful and admired musicians of a generation, yet how many times did you read a story about her that did not include the word 'troubled'?
Amy Winehouse was, at times, out of control (and the voyeuristic press seized every opportunity to grab a headline out of that). But even stars who are relatively clean cut can be seen to buckle under the pressure of having their relationships picked apart, personal information revealed, family tragedies discussed and commented on. When those who have earned their fortunes in the spotlight seem not to appreciate the charmed lives they supposedly lead, they become fair game for vitriolic attacks, presumed to be 'ungrateful' for the media exposure that put them where they are. What a terrible way to live, with a double-edged sword constantly at your throat.
Her astounding voice and emotionally-charged lyrics, combined with her crazily hedonistic lifestyle and tempestuous relationships with bad boys, made Amy Winehouse fascinating. She had the world rubber necking as if passing a car crash – and no more so than in June, when she made a disastrous comeback and her European tour was cancelled so she could 'sort herself out'. What a casual reference to the demons she was so obviously battling. Should she have been able to manage it any more easily than the next alcohol and drug-addicted person? Of course not. Money does not buy everything.
Stardom, meanwhile, is still the top trump. No-one is really talking about the 93 people murdered in Norway anymore. And the papers that once feasted on Amy's fist fights and stage blunders are publishing lengthy tributes she'll never read. Back on side again.
I do hope she is remembered for the star that she was in the good times and, if her third album is released, she proves that, despite everything, she never lost what made her a star in the first place – her soul.
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