One year ago today the music world suffered a devastating loss. At 27, Amy Winehouse had passed away, found unresponsive in her Camden Square flat on a Saturday afternoon. Hendrix, Joplin, Mossison, Cobain and now, Winehouse. It wasn’t fair and anyone who has listened to Back to Black knows what I mean. With the amount of artists and bands that are out there today, it’s so easy to get lost in the homogeneity of it all. But when you heard Amy Winehouse, just like the first time you hear Aretha Franklin or James Brown, you knew that there was no one who could imitate.
There is a popular mythology associated with the rock star culture, the one that tells the tale of the Genius, so tortured by their very own ability to produce excellence that it results in their demise. After all of the leaked videos of her performances and awful tabloid headlines, was this was we reduced her to? We’ve seen lots of celebrities and musicians spiral out of control and then find solid ground somehow. Sometimes not always for the betterment of their career and sometimes it’s just the spark they need. But what I think we, the public and the media need to realize is that while although we are not the ones making this art, it is somewhat our duty to help preserve it. I’m not saying that given the chance someone could have pulled her out of the darkness within which she was dwelling but, to have all that negativity pushed toward you is not a healthy motivator.
From start to finish Back to Black is flawless. Mark Ronson’s production transports the listener back to the days of the Stax and Chess soul records in the 50′s and 60′s with elements of early ska and reggae. And of course, Ms. Winehouses’ vocals are unimaginably effortless. If you had no idea who she was you’d swear I was playing you a 45 from my Grandmothers record collection. The lyrical content is that of longing, loneliness and a close relationship with the bottle. You can hear the emotion in her voice, evoking Etta James in her cries for love and you get the feeling like your looking into her diary. “Back to Black” is hauntingly beautiful speaking of the love she still knows is there and the upbeat ballad “Tears Dry On Their Own” provides a in the mood of the album. It was this album that shot her to fame and no one could see how true these lyrics really were.
After news of her passing was announced it was a fresh breeze to see positive headlines with her name as well as all of the love that was given to her by the music community. Heartfelt tweets from Mark Ronson and Russel Brand were moving as well as tribute songs from M.I.A., Green Day and Patti Smith. All this made you realize that her passing was so much more than just the loss of a great artist. As a music fan, I’m grateful that she left behind what she did so she will always live on through our stereos but, more so I wish we had realized what we had. The music she left doesn’t have the “I don’t get it” factor that a lot of new music does. These songs transcend generations and leave your ears and mind free of judgement. They are instant classics that connect with you on some deeper level. Who was the last artist that could do that?
Take some time to listen to Amy’s music, whether it’s one song or the whole album she deserves that, as she deserves to be remembered.