Amy Winehouse dead at 27
Today British singer Amy Winehouse passed away at the age of 27. She was found dead in her home in London. The cause of death is yet unknown, but considering Amy Winehouse's very public struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, there is an almost universal assumption that her death was somehow substance-related.
The focus of this blog is on North American Jewish women, but even though Amy Winehouse was British, she and her music had an important influence here in North America. Her soul-jazz-pop ballads had a fresh sound and dealt with her demons--bad relationships, breakups, drugs, drinking, and rehab. Her second album Back to Black, 2006, was a global hit that won 5 Grammy awards including Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. In death, Amy Winehouse joins legendary musicians Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, who all died at 27.
When I heard the news I put on Back to Black and to my own surprise, began to cry. I don't usually have such emotional reactions to celebrity deaths, but Amy Winehouse's music dealt with unspoken truths of love and pain and at my own dark moments I found solace, validation, and comfort in her music.
Even though everyone knew she was fighting serious demons, her death still came as a shock. With only two albums under her belt, Amy Winehouse was just getting started. I can't speak for everyone, but I think we assumed that she would eventually conquer her demons and go on to create her best work. Cut short, her life is a harsh reminder that some don't overcome.
Though Amy Winehouse was different from many of the women we usually recognize here, she was undoubtedly a "Jewess with attitude." But the Jewish community never exactly embraced her. With continual tabloid coverage of Amy Winehouse's drug and alcohol use, rehab stints, fights, and "trainwreck" performances, she was for all intents and purposes written off as "bad for the Jews."
Without reaching too far, I think there's a lesson to learn from her passing. We can't write off those with substance abuse problems or mental illness in our communities, no matter how "embarrassing" their condition may be. Too often, the Jewish community wears blinders, preferring to assume that these issues do not exist in our own communities. But they do. And we need to do a better job of taking care of our sisters and brothers, daughters and sons.