Tag Archives: Amy Winehouse

Love Is a Losing Game – Amy: The Girl Behind the Name

15 Jul

Amy Winehouse documentaryWhen a gifted genius like Amy Winehouse dies young and horribly, you just want to find someone to blame for the terrible waste of talent and potential. Asif Kapadia’s documentary, Amy: The Girl Behind the Name, names numerous suspects:

  • Was it her dad, who left the family when Amy was nine and later talked her out of rehab right before stardom made recovery nigh impossible?
  • Maybe it was her mom, who refused to discipline her daughter as a child and did nothing about teenaged Amy’s bulimia, thinking she’d grow out of it.
  • How about her manager, who was also her promoter – hellbent on making her perform even when she was unwell and unwilling?
  • Most definitely Blake Fielder-Civil, her shitbag of a husband, had a hand in it, as he feasted on her insecurities and bank account to support his own drug habit – and expanded her repertory by introducing her to heroin and crack.
  • But so did we, the fans who made her a star and then, when her addictions were getting the best of her, turned her life into a tasteless series of Amy Wino jokes and frightful photos.
  • And let’s face it, Amy’s worst enemy was often Amy herself, as she couldn’t distance herself from alcohol and drugs long enough to save her voice, her career and ultimately, her life.

I knew this film was going to be painful. How could it not be when we all know how she was going to end up? The film is even more of a wrecking ball because Kapadia was given access to a trove of video footage from family and friends to ground the film in Amy’s beginnings as a sassy teenager with a one-in-a-million voice. Amy is rarely out of the picture, as audio interviews with her friends, family and associates fill in the blanks between her performances and interviews. Her songs are used as the libretto of the film, floating over the action to point up how songwriting was her way of processing her life.

And when it gets ugly, Kapadia doesn’t shy away, and your heart breaks a little more with each explosive flash of the paparazzi’s cameras.

Amy’s reaction to winning the Grammy as best new artist, as announced by her idol Tony Bennett, was a perfect example of the clash between who she had become and who she wanted to be:

If only Bennett had been able to work with her earlier in her career, perhaps she’d be alive today, wowing people in jazz clubs across the globe as the next Dinah Washington, instead of being another member of the 27 Club. We’ll never know.

On July 23, 2011, our family was on a road trip back from Boston. I was reading Steven Tyler’s memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (great title, disappointing book) and came up on his name check of Amy Winehouse as a fellow traveler stumbling off the road to recovery. Within a few minutes of me turning that page, NPR announced she had been found dead in her apartment. It wasn’t a surprise. It was, and still is, a colossal shame, because her limited catalog only shows a small part of what she was capable of as an artist – and her beauty was like no other.

See this film – and if you want even more material, check out her album Live at the BBC to hear more music and enjoy the DVD that comes with the record to see Amy Winehouse at the top of her game.

See you on the flip side …

P.S. I’ll be signing books at the Arts, Books & Brews Pub Crawl on July 29 in beautiful downtown Howell, Michigan. See you there!

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Brain Stew

2 Oct

I can’t watch.

I know it’s out there everywhere online – YouTube and Facebook and a bazillion tabloid sites – but I just can’t bring myself to seek it out.

I can’t bear watching Billie Joe Armstrong lose his marbles on international TV.

Billie Joe Armstrong: the prettiest girl in punk rock

There have been any number of rock-and-roll meltdowns before. (The one, I hate to admit, that makes me laugh every time I hear about it? Pigeons registering their opinion of Kings of Leon by pelting them with poo during an outdoor concert … and landing a bomb in their bass player’s mouth.) Some would say it comes with the territory, cracking under the pressure of living the over-examined public life, dealing with ridiculously intrusive fans, facing unrestricted access to great quantities of any number of controlled substances. Oh, those delicate creative types.

Particularly for punk. With the Sex Pistols setting the bar for behavior, being hauled off to rehab an instant after smashing your guitar during a televised concert while screaming obscenities at your live studio audience (and defaming Justin Bieber) is kind of like forgetting to cover your mouth when you sneeze. It barely earned a column inch in Entertainment Weekly.

I hoped Mr. Armstrong was going to avoid all this. For a punk he seems like a responsible adult. He’s been married to the same woman for 18 years; his son and my daughter are both high school seniors this year; he loves The Who and Broadway. (It’s as if I’m looking in a mirror …) Green Day’s musicianship is tight, the vocals well-supported; Billie Joe probably won’t sound like Leonard Cohen in his later years … if he takes care of himself now.

Sigh …

There have been too many train wrecks in rock-and-roll and I get no pleasure in watching them happen. Here’s wishing Billie Joe a permanent recovery, and may American Idiot always be known as his best album, not his epitaph.

See you on the flip side …

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