All I can ever be to you,
Is a darkness that we knew, And this regret I’ve grown accustom to.
– “Tears Dry On Their Own” / Amy Winehouse
There’s always a little bit of “what if” and “why didn’t someone” and “stop demonizing / vilifying / glorifying them now just because they’re dead” that goes on right after a controversial celebrity dies suddenly (although never quite unexpectedly). And today is no different, as I watch my friends debate Amy Winehouse some saying ”What a tragedy” and others saying “I’m surprised she lasted this long”. Meanwhile, the ones who like to hear themselves talk, are gratuitously pointing out that she died as she lived and had no one to blame but herself. Yes. We’re all aware of who Amy Winehouse was publicly. The talent. The trainwreck. And ultimately, the tragedy.
I’m not really here to ruminate on her death. I’m just here to memorialize someone who broke my heart.
Ultimately, I think, the biggest shock is not that Amy Winehouse died, but that she didn’t rebound strong enough to have a comeback before she did. We all hoped for it the way we hope Lindsey Lohan will straighten up and have that Meryl Streepesque career we know she’s capable of (or at least a Reese Witherspoon one). Aww, come on – isn’t there a small part of you that believes … truly believes – the way you still believe you may win the lottery every time you scratch that ticket – that Lindsey will be Parent-Trap great again? And so it was with Winehouse. I know I was waiting for Amy to get back on the ball and wow me again with another round of Back To Black-esque songs. Who else was going to champion my dark side the way she did? But more on that later.
The Entertainment Industry is reminiscent of a New York club – with a Maximum Capacity sign posted right outside the door and a VIP rope (and some yellow caution tape) barring entrance. The line outside the door is filled with – crammed with – talented people who all have their “something”, who all can sing, dance, act, make people laugh, make people cry, write plays, make films, sometimes all of the above. So when someone catches the eye of the guy holding the rope and they get to go through that sacred doorway into that hallowed Fame Room with its candy bowls overflowing with iPads, Lamborghinis and (depends on whom you talk to) illegal substances we expect them to have the time of their lives in there. We DON’T find it acceptable that they’re taking up room, and then instead of keeping up the talent that got them through the door, they slink to the side of the room and shoot it up, drink it down, or otherwise just fall apart. That makes us mad. That breaks our hearts.
ONE: because we would like to think they can do better. TWO: because we know if they’re not gonna bother to do better, they should come back out and free up some space for our guitar playing sister, our witty brother in law, our long-suffering selves. Still – it’s not like Amy Winehouse didn’t contribute anything while she was in the hallowed room.
“Such a waste”
Well, yes and no. I mean – it’s more of a waste for those who have the same talent yet do absolutely nothing with it. To have at least gotten it out … shared it … changed moments in peoples lives … coated people’s memories with her music – that’s not a waste. To have it end at 27? Others have died younger and their vibrations are still in our lives.
Personally, I loved Amy Winehouse. I loved her music, I loved her look, I loved her despair. I loved that when I was at the end of my rope and scraping bottom there was someone I could connect to musically who was taking loneliness, confusion, and hardcore jadedness and smearing it across the musical scales, unfiltered. She sang about men I had loved, affairs I had barely survived, empty days and lonely nights that were in my past and probably on my horizon. She knew me. I hated how well she knew me – but that didn’t change how much she did.
Both Sides Now
She was my behind-closed-doors persona. Because out in the world we all have to be put together, buttoned up, motivated, and actualizing our potential. But in the safe haven of our own four walls we get to fall apart a little – drink too much, smoke too much, cry too much, isolate, ruminate, stare into space and wonder over and over again when things will get better.
Truth of the matter is, we all have our demons, and we all have our Goliaths we’re struggling to slay. When we see someone felled by them, it’s a victory for their dark side, and therefore a highlight of our own. And when our dark sides swallow up a fellow traveler, it makes us all feel that less safe. You don’t have any demons you say? Nothing you’re addicted to, obsessed with, or enslaved by? Here’s a little illumination for you. Everyone’s addicted to something – even if it’s the act of looking on the bright side or living clean or helping others. Whether it’s meditating, baseball, or theatre, if you need it, you’re addicted to it. Everyone has that one thing inside them they have to do every single day – publicly or privately – that makes them who they are. And when we see someone succumb to the thing that gripped them because it turned too dark and too powerful, at that moment the ties that bind us together as a species are threatened. Think your addiction isn’t as bad? There’s a way to abuse anything if you’re self destructive enough. Hobbies turn into passions, passions turn into obsessions, obsessions turn into destruction. What seems benign to you – I guarantee you – may seem crazy and destructive to someone else. Hell, Heidi Montag’s plastic surgeon was so addicted to Twitter that he careened off the road just so he could tweet something about his dog. ANYTHING can kill you if you can’t stop doing it. Give it time.
Can’t Call It A Comeback
But the real tragedy is – to get back to my point- that there will never be another Amy Winehouse album. There won’t be a comeback. There won’t be those forgiving fans, standing five deep, eager to pardon her and embracing the new, cleaned-up Amy who controlled her demons not completely – but just enough to come back to us. And we wouldn’t have wanted her to control them completely, becuase they formed her, and in turn they formed our love for her. But without a comeback there won’t be the endless tracks of Amy Winehouse songs to pick from in order to soundtrack the next break up, the next nosedive, the next speedbump of life. There will just be the songs we know, the legacy she left, and the heartbreak we feel.
He can only hold her for so long
The lights are on but no one’s home
She’s so vacant – her soul is taken
He thinks, “What’s she running from?”
How can he have her heart
When it got stole
So he tries to pacify her
Cause what’s inside her never dies