Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse -- "Stronger Than Me" (2003)

You should be stronger than me
You been here seven years longer than me . . .
Why'd you always put me in control? 

Amy Winehouse joined "The 27 Club" yesterday.  

Amy Winehouse
"The 27 Club" (or "Club 27") is the name that has been given to the group of rock/pop musicians who died at age 27.  The most famous members of "Club 27" are Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones (drowned in a swimming pool), Jimi Hendrix (asphyxiated on his own vomit after consuming sleeping pills with wine), Janis Joplin (heroin overdose), Jim Morrison ("heart failure"), and Kurt Cobain (suicide with a shotgun).  

There have been numerous stories in the last couple of years about Winehouse showing up impaired and incoherent for concerts.

In June of this year, she kicked off a European tour in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.  It was widely reported that she was so loaded when she took the stage that forget the lyrics to the songs she attempted to sing, the name of the city she was in ("Hello, Athens" was her greeting to the audience), and the names of her band members.  A few days later, the remainder of the tour was cancelled. 

Click here to view a "Good Morning, America" piece on the Belgrade disaster.

Until I heard the news about Winehouse's death, I don't think I had ever heard one of her songs.  She was just a cliche to me -- a pop star who was a major hot mess, covered with tattoos, and a veteran of rehab clinics who was still seemingly addicted to multiple dangerous substances who was always in the news.

But she was also an enormously talented and popular performer.  Here's how James Montgomery described Winehouse on
There was a darkness to Winehouse, a quality that went beyond the tabloid pages or her low-cut dresses or her frequent binges on drugs and alcohol.  It was most apparent in her voice, smoky and smoldering and, at times, savage, but always imperceptibly pained too, just like Billie Holiday or Janis Joplin or even Kurt Cobain.  It's no wonder then that like those talents, she found solace — and, ultimately, escape — in controlled substances.  Anything to numb the pain.
With Tony Bennett
Winehouse recently recorded a duet with the legendary Tony Bennett for a forthcoming album of his, and Bennett described her as "a lovely and intelligent person" who gave a "soulful and extraordinary performance."  He went on to praise her "rare intuition as a vocalist."

"Stronger Than Me" came from Winehouse's first album, Frank, which was released in 2003.  In the music video, Winehouse's boyfriend has gotten hopelessly drunk at a club.  She plays the responsible one in the relationship, shaking her head at his stupidity and lack of self-control.  In other words, the video is an example of art not imitating life.

Winehouse's only other album, Back to Black, was released in 2006.  It was a hugely successful record internationally, and was the best-selling album of 2007 in the UK.

The first single from that album, "Rehab," which was a top-10 hit in the US and UK, begins this way:

They tried to make me go to rehab 
But I said no, no, no 

And even when she said "yes" to rehab, it didn't stick -- as this photo demonstrates:

One of the first things I thought about when I learned of her death was how her father must feel.  (I have a son who was born the same week as Amy Winehouse, and her father and I are about the same age.)  

Mitch Winehouse was an aspiring singer who became a London cab driver to support his family.  He sang Frank Sinatra songs to Amy when she was a child, and encouraged her musical pursuits.

Winehouse was able to revive his musical career after his daughter's success.  He released a jazz-crooner-type album earlier this year.  In fact, he was scheduled to perform at the Blue Note jazz club in New York City this coming Monday before canceling his appearance and returning to London.

Here's Mitch singing "April in Paris":

Press accounts generally portray Mitch sympathetically -- as a father who did his best to help his daughter deal with her addictions.  "That's what parents are for," he said in one interview.  "Things have been difficult for her, she's not been well and when she needed her family most, we were there."

I wonder if Mitch Winehouse is wishing he never sang to his daughter, never encouraged her musical career.   As proud as he must have been of her great talent and her popular success, he probably feels that it would have been better if she had never become a star.

Amy and her father
Before the tattoos, and the beehive hairdo, and the addictions, and the marriage to an equally out-of-control addict, Amy Winehouse was Mitch Winehouse's little girl.  No matter the circumstances of her death, I'm sure he is blaming himself for what happened and wishing he could turn the clock back and give her an entirely different life. 

I've never known anyone who was as troubled and out of control as Winehouse was -- I thank God that none of my children have ever shown the slightest signs of having the demons that inhabited her.  (Knock on wood.)
Here's the music video for "Stronger Than Me": 

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

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