Not exactly the surprising news story of the year, I grant you; really, it was just a matter of time until Winehouse went back to black for good. Still, it’s sad that the inevitable has come to pass: behind all of the drug-crazed behavior and the attendant tabloid frenzy, Winehouse really did have talent to burn. I’m hardly shaking and crying or anything, but it is sad to watch someone whose artistic gifts came linked with a Sysiphusian burden ultimately fall down and let their stone roll back down the hill for good. From my completely unqualified position as desk-chair psychologist, it seems to me that Winehouse died because she had to. Some people simply can’t break their addictions, and it’s really as simple –and as sad – as that.
Of course, my fellow desk-chair psychologist Netizens have a wide array of varying diagnoses. Let’s have a look at them, shall we?
“Good riddance to an untalented drug addict. Stupid junkie deserved to die.” This one’s a particular favorite over at the baby-boomer skewing music forums; the “all post-1975 music sucks” style inter-joints. It’s not a crowd noted for its sympathy or, for that matter, native intelligence, and their reaction is as predictable as it is pungent. In order, then. “Untalented”: not hardly. Personal taste is of course subjective, but by any reasonable standard Back to Black was one of the ‘00s more memorable – and emotionally charged – pop albums. “Drug addict”: indeed. The music you love was largely created by them, actually. “Deserved to die”: bleech. Seeing as how most of these guys worship the ground the Beatles walked upon, let’s rock a little hypothetical situation here. By many accounts, John Lennon spent much of the ‘70s smacked out of his gourd. Had he met his fate through his own actions, rather than dying at the hands of an (ahem) crazed fan, would these same folks be prattling on about how much he “deserved to die”? Methinks not.
“OMG. I loved her music so much. I’m literally crying as I write this.” I admired Back to Black, but was no super-fan and am thusly not expelling tears as I type right now. Still, I get this one and have nothing nasty to say about it. It’s not surprising that Winehouse’s brand of tune inspired such reactions: anything that honest and that pleading is likely to. I feel honestly bad for this crowd, even if the fallen star in question isn’t one I personally wish upon.
“You know, she was twenty-seven years old. That’s when they all die.” Please spare me the urban legend drivel, okay? Billy Bragg – always a man who can be counted on as a beacon of intelligence in a sea of dim-witted peers – hit the nail on the head in the Associated Press story linked above: “It's not age that Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain & Amy have in common. It's drug abuse, sadly.” Amen. When you’re star-crossed from the start and hell-bent on living fast, dying young, and to hell with your corpse, it’s a safe bet that statistically speaking, your end will come in your mid to late twenties. Et voila: twenty-seven. To put it another way: Aleister Crowley appeared to me in a vision last night, urging me to tell you to knock off the quasi-mystical crap…and to acknowledge heroin for what it is, what it does, and the average life span of its enthusiasts.
In short: to the bereaved, I’m sorry. To the judgmentally smug, I hope you are soon thrown from your moral high horses. To the fans of the so-called Twenty-Seven club, give the hippie-dippy voodoo a rest and face the facts, would you? Perhaps most importantly, to those who’ve let the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded Winehouse during her life understandably deter you from hearing Back to Black, go give it a download. Taken strictly as music, as it should be, it’s a remarkable work.