14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011
The news of her death has saddened me in a way that I had not predicted. Of course, I watched along with the rest of the world as this deeply gifted and deeply troubled artist unraveled. We all saw her sinking and seemingly wallowing in a pit where her personal demons traveled along with her like a bad friend you can’t shake. And though many of us anticipated this tragic end to her life, I always held a deep and abiding hope that she would pull herself together and save her own life. Sadly, this was not to be.
I found Amy’s music at a time of great personal turmoil. Devastated by the end of a relationship, cowed by what I perceived to be an insurmountable stall of my career, displaced from my home and unsure of who I was or how I would continue living, Amy’s first album, Frank, became my touchstone. A place where I could be with my heartbreak, rage, fear, and sadness and mix it all in with some small kernel of hope that things wouldn’t always be so God-awful. It was the winter of 2006 and no one knew who Amy Winehouse was. She was my own personal treasure trove. The piano and the chord progressions in the jazz-influenced You Sent Me Flying were like little bits of heaven to me. I took her everywhere I went.
As winter turned to spring and I put the pieces of my life back together, having grown new parts of me where others had withered, I recalled the lessons I’d learned from my time spent with Ms. Winehouse. First, that there were indeed artists making music that spoke to me and my experience and maybe there was still a place for someone like me in an industry full of popcorn and bubblegum. She had it all: soul, irreverence, courage and of course, that voice. But most importantly, I had learned that things in your life can be terrible and you can still be okay. Okay enough to write about it, to sing about it, to lay your soul bare and live to tell the tale. There would always be the other side and you would most certainly be changed. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. This was my Amy Winehouse experience. I loved her fiercely.
When her life took it’s dreadful turn and story after story broke about her drug use, her tumultuous relationship, and her declining health I had to look away. I couldn’t bear to see her that way. Today I understand that I had pinned a lot of hope for my own redemption to my hope for hers and with each piece of terrible news, both seemed more unlikely.
And so it is with a heavy heart and a deep sadness that I bid farewell to a gifted singer, a woman who helped to save my life and a kindred spirit. I will miss you. Rest in sweet relief my dear Amy.
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