Amy Winehouse was a singer who was quietly tortured to death in public. With death she found the comfort denied in life.
What do we really expect from young people who experience great artistic success before the age of 25 and then get devoured in the media spotlight? They lose any description of a personal life. For example, any day at the beach to relieve stress ends up on the front page of People or Us magazines.
Furthermore, in many cases we end up mocking them. Look what is happening to musicians like Justin Bieber and Courtney Love and draw your own conclusions.
Other than her eyeliner that stretched her eyelashes to the edge of her ears, I really knew little about Amy Winehouse. When she died at the age of 27 nearly 5 years ago, even the music world kept on operating without missing a beat. Mocked on late night TV and in various tabloids, who cared about what this young woman was really like?
As demonstrated in his previous sterling documentary Senna (2010), Director Asif Kapadia has again gained access to a treasure trove of pictures, films and friends who were willing to speak. What you see is a woman who was a product of a dysfunctional childhood who ended up gaining fame that she did not seek. In many ways she was simply an ordinary girl who was forced to exist in a pool of sharks only to discover that she couldn’t swim. Think of Janis Joplin and you’ll understand.
Ms. Winehouse was a great songwriter with a voice to match. She was really a jazz artist whose lyrics reflected her own life, and it was heartbreakingly wonderful to see her reaction to an unexpected Grammy over contenders like Beyoncé and Jay Z.
Scarred through life by a father who abandoned her at the age of 9 while trying to capitalize later on her success, it was not surprising to see her marry a twisted husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, a relationship where love ruined her. As she sought relief from the public eye, Ms. Winehouse soon was consumed by an addiction to alcohol, cocaine and heroin. While she frequently ran from these three pursuing ghosts, she could never escape for long. One of her great songs contains lyrics reflecting her decline into Dante’s Seventh Rung, where she sang, “Rehab, No No No!”
In private Ms. Winehouse was a caustic, funny woman, and she really only sought a life where she could live like a normal human being. Despite the constant intervention of a group of old friends, she could never find it, and you are left viewing her death as providing the peace that life denied her.