Music Jul 27, 2011 at 4:00 am

Amy Winehouse Was an Angel from Hell

She was built of impropriety. MISCHA Richter


You're my favorite Stranger writer, Brendan. I'm not even sure I agree with everything you say about Ms. Winehouse, but this is a good piece - economical, restrained, and affecting all at once.
Loved your article! Thank goodness for the internet and allowing me to "stumble" upon your article.
I loved your article! Thank goodness for the Internet! I happen to "stumble" upon your article and it's honest and different than all the blah, blah, blah I've been reading the past few days. Thank you!
"conquered her drug dependency," and was "trying hard" to control her drinking.

Which only shows her father's lack of understanding of drugs and addiction. Alcohol IS A DRUG ... if you are addicted to alcohol, you are dependent on drugs. And any multi-substance addict who continues to drink to extreme excess, as AW obviously did, is continually at extreme risk of relapsing back into usage of the other drugs.

This is not judgmental ... just fact. Many of my favorite creatives ... musicians, painters, writers ... have had the darkness that shows itself in many addicts ... no doubt a major part of what made their creativity so appealing. But as long as AW was struggling with alcohol, her addiction issue was still front and central in her life and likely to lead to her death.
@5: A dull diatribe about semantics means you missed the fucking point. People like you are exactly why lots of addicts don't want to show up at 12 step meetings. They know you'll be there with your bad coffee, your lectures and your mind-numbing ideological agenda.
did you see the Never Mind The Buzzcocks S14E10 (Part 2) where Amy Winehouse was on Rich Hall's team and Rich said "y'know what you never see? Baldheaded heroin addicts." And Amy looks at him, bites her lip and covers her mouth with the "song cards." Rich Hall continues, "Iggy Pop and Lou Reed... they have fabulous heads of hair, they're heroin addicts. Say it. That's why it's called heroin." Then notice how Amy's hair changes between 2004 and 2009.
The UK's crack police force, the Metropolitan Police, announced that the forensic autoposy on Ms. Winehouse yielded the following:

massive traces of crack cocaine, heroin, morphine, Ecstasy, PCP, and 23 brands of paint thinner were found in blood samples, but the Metro Police are still unable to determine cause of death.

In other news, the Metropolitan Police are still investigating internal corruption, begun in March of 2003, when the chief editor and executive at Murdoch's News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, testified that she bloody well was bribing the majority of the bloody Metropolitan Police.
Damn Damn Damn

I go away on vacation for 5 freakin' days, come back and -- Amy Winehouse is dead, Norway is shot to hell, whatthefuckisgoingon...

Great piece, Brendan. You pull no punches. I didn't realize till I read this that she only put out two records.. I suppose we'll have some posthumous releases in the next year or so.. Damn, what a tragic waste of talent - the songs we'll never hear, indeed.

I'm reminded of my college poetry professor who, when we began to study Anne Sexton, proclaimed his boredom with artists who self-destruct (we'd just studied Plath). He was actually angry, and spoke of how much more meaningful it would be to read of how someone actually survived their worst impulses, rather than having to bear witness to how they succumb, over and over again.

I am sad for her, I am sad for us. I am sad.

And what's with musicians and this damn 27 thing, anyway? Seriously, wtf?!?
Good reference to Simon's handling of her on Buzzcocks - here's the link:…
@8: You got a link for that?
I miss Simon Amstell as the host of Buzzcocks, although he comes across as a dick here for not recognising that Amy Winehouse was probably experiencing public confrontations about her addictions on a day-to-day basis.
Was wino beating out her heroes musically before, during, or after the boob job, and tanning sessions? She was so full of 'soul' though, right? She was an absolute joke prior to her death. Thank god for that posthumous love that always kicks in afterward.

Sharon jones dominates winehouse. Not even close.
@13: If you think Back to Black doesn't have soul, then I suspect our definitions differ.
Fucking tragic. She had one hell of a Voice.
I'm guessing that her first posthumous single will be remembered the way that "Me and Bobby McGee" will always be remembered by Joplin fans.

Goodbye, Amy. I wish you had liked yourself a little more.
@6: I hope you are not saying everyone "in the rooms" are like that, because they are not. There are plenty of dogmatists, sure, just like anywhere, but there are plenty of free-thinkers as well.
wow, the tone of the article is kind of angry. like winehouse needed her honor redeemed or something like that. face the facts, the world is cruel place and if you give some folks all the rope they want well they tie up their arms, shoot heroin and die (for those keeping score i'm using the heroin as a metaphor-who knows what really killed her-i know). not sure if back to black was the tantamount record like you make out to be but certainly agree its better than that sharon jones bs. my sentiment on the whole thing is too bad, too sad; just like her rock star drug fueled death: both a very sad cliche'. not making light of things but in my fantasy world lady gaga deserves a death like that because of her wackass muzak. oh wait, she is pure business-nothing at all to do with art. that's why we all loved winehouse, that bitch could sing.....the fame she could have done without.
to Brendan Kiley, simply put, if amy winehouse had been black, she"d be just another ghetto ass soul singer. she was unremarkable. But, now that she"s a deceased, white soul singer,who died at 27, you put her into iconic sainthood.Forever Black? more like Forever Whitewash. willi g.
I never really gave much time to Amy Winehouse's music, but even I was aware of her thousand mile nosedive, and the near inevitability of her drug-related demise. I find it very telling that a large group of famewhores emerged in the hours after her death was reported to claim her tragedy as their own and bemoan the loss of her friendship. Addiction is not simple or easy to overcome, but I can't help but think that if some of these people had spent less time enabling her and more time actually being her friend, we might have seen that third album and more.
YAY! Somebody gets it. I was beginning to feel like a lunatic.
Yay! Somebody gets it. I was beginning to feel like a lunatic. Some refuse to acknowledge the unique beauty of art wrapped in self destruction. charlie parker, hunter thompson, charles bukowski, etc.

Thank you. This was so beautifully written. Rarely do I read something in The Stranger that moves me, but this did.
son, edit that first paragraph. I shouldn't have to tell you what's wrong. I wasn't gonna battle, but I'll take your job. "won by a mile"? what?
you loved her, so did I. it ain't a competition. neil young, Djavan, buckshot lefonque all share those chords. Phyliss Hyman, ever heard Donny Hathaway sing? Threw himself out a window. Jaco, Bird, Trane, Jimi. Turned the world upside down. What did Sharon Jones ever do to you or Amy? huh?
Addiction and artists are not specially intertwined. Addictions is common to EVERY walk of life. It's only that many artists are in the public eye, particularly in today's celebrity-obsessed culture. There are drunks and drug addicts everywhere.

We should also be saying "Many of my favorite accountants have had the darkness that shows itself in many addicts ... no doubt a major part of what made their financial analysis so appealing."

The person who fixed your car is an addict. The person who cleaned your house is an addict. And so it goes.
Because of this article, I listened to Back to Black for the first time. Certainly better than I thought it would be considering Rehab was all I had heard. That huge hit did not impress me so I was confused by all these comparisons of Amy Winehouse to past great artists whether they were in the 27 Club or just sang the blues. She certainly struck a chord with some people, and I'm not here to take that away from anyone. However, critics including myself don't hear what she did that was original. Nor, does Amy's music impressed me as much as some of her contemporaries like Adele, Nora Jones, Lily Allen, and Fiona Apple. Obviously, some disagree, and that is fine. My point is, most of us aren't hearing what Winehouse fans are hearing since we heard a bunch of old, black, Americans doing it first - and frankly better.
She is greatly mis credited for the song "Rehab"...This is a Noel Coward gem redone in an R und B style. Not that it was done badly or with out her spin. But the dark humour lyricism lies in the original.
bringing Sharon Jones into it was entirely unnecessary, cousin, but since you did... it's a matter of taste, but I've always dug Jones' stuff a lot more than Winehouse's, as I prefer my soul and r&b to be a little gritty, dirty, sweaty, etc. Jones and her band sound like a band, where with Winehouse it sounds like a chick with a great voice was put into a studio and into the good hands of some worthy hired guns and a good producer. And to be sure, the Dap-Kings is Sharon Jones' band. They were formed as her backing band at a time when Winehouse was still in high school, they had been her band for several years when they were hired a few times for studio sessions by Mark Ronson, which is why they backed Winehouse on half of Back To Black and then her fist U.S. tour.

I will agree that Back To Black is a magnificent record, but it's hard to reconcile its absence from the higher-end of most of the year-end lists of 2007 (including the Stranger's) and its canonization since her death. Very good album, sure, but certainly not the genre and generation-defining masterpiece you and so many others are making it to be in the shadow of her untimely death. Some albums age and grow better than others, and many of the all-time classic albums were not necessarily the biggest chart-toppers in their years of release, but for a record that's barely four and a half years old... while some rags ranked it high in '06 and '07 many didn't (released in December '06, BTB registers in either year depending on who's defining the cut-off dates). Rolling Stone had it at 40. The Guardian UK had it at 5, Mojo at 7. The Village Voice, 4. Pitchfork did not have it in their Top 50. Spin, 7. Chicago Tribune, not in the Top 20. Billboard, 24. Amazon editors, not in the Top 24. A popular record indeed, but not quite considered the galvanizing masterpiece of its day, per recent public discussion. A handful of albums those two years were staples in virtually every Top Ten list, and this wasn't one of them. Not that it isn't a really good album. It is. It's just, you know, hyperbole abounds.

It's sad when anyone dies at a young age, even if we can't be surprised given the style and fashion in which Amy Winehouse spent her final four years. But as for our treatment of Back To Black, is it possible that many people are making it out to be a Sgt. Pepper or a Pet Sounds when it's more like a Synchronicity or an Exile In Guyville?

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.