27 Was Too Soon

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I remember when I heard the news about Amy Winehouse. I was sitting in my friend’s house, carelessly flipping through the channels on the television, when I saw the headline on CNN. Without a thought I let out a gasp. My friends sitting next to me were less shocked. I even remember one of them saying, “it was going to happen sooner or later.”

Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home in London on July 23, 2011. At the time, the cause of death was unknown. Several months later, a British coroner ruled that her death was the “unintended result of drinking too much alcohol,” according to the New York Times. Winehouse was 27 years old.   

The days following her death, the coverage on television and the Internet cited the so-called “27 club,” the eerie coincidence of talented musicians having their lives cut short at the age of 27. Members of the club included Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and then, Amy.

With her history of drug and alcohol abuse and erratic behavior, many reacted to her death as something tragic, but inevitable, as if it was something no force in the world could have stopped. They chalked her behavior up to the rock star lifestyle. Many looked down on her for her addictions. In 2007 she was admitted to a hospital for overdosing on heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol, according the Daily Telegraph. Addiction is a disease but many still view it as a bad choice made by an irresponsible person. In a 2007 interview with Rolling Stone, Amy said that she suffered from depression and had self-harmed in the past.

Somewhere along the way she became a character and not a person. In 2007, photographers snapped pictures of her hanging outside her apartment in London in her bra and jeans. People magazine speculated that the songstress had been partying the night before.

Her strange behavior often clouded her exquisite talent. The velvety smooth voice that crooned over tales of heartbreak was like nothing the music industry had seen in decades. Her music was reminiscent of the soul divas from years ago. She was the first, and perhaps the most talented of the unconventional British pop singers that emerged.    

“She had an amazing voice. It was really old school,” Kate Miltenberger, a sophomore English writing major at the University of Pittsburgh said.

On Dec. 2 fans found comfort in the release of Lioness: Hidden Treasures, her posthumous album of unreleased tracks and demos hand picked by Mark Ronson, Salaam Remi and Winehouse’s family. It included her duet with Tony Bennett for the song “Body and Soul”.

Proceeds from the album will go the The Amy Winehouse Foundation, created by Winehouse’s father after her death.

Katy Fishell, a freshmen fine arts major at Columbia College Chicago said that Amy was, "A reckless talent who was unfortunately sidetracked by substance abuse. The passing of such a unique voice and vision should be seen as nothing short of a tragedy.”

For me, Amy will be remembered as the strong and independent woman who told me that tears dry on their own. Her lyrics were self-aware. She was unapologetic about herself when she quipped, “you know that I’m no good.” But she was better than good, she was herself, and that is what should be remembered. She had her own demons to fight and she wasn’t perfect. Rest in peace Amy. We all miss you.

Sophomore > Magazine Journalism > Syracuse University

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