I got introduced to the music of Amy Winehouse in late 2006.Being a major chart geek myself, i was having one of my usual fits of browsing through most of the significant music charts all over the world (yes..i had nothing better to do back in the day..sigh!).’Back To Black‘ had just been released,and it had stormed into the UK Albums Charts at #3, while ‘Rehab‘ entered the UK Top 40 Singles Chart at #7, and a simultaneous splash in the albums and singles charts made me sit up and take notice. One listen to the entire album..and my deduction was simple.Her voice and musical style was a unique blend of Billie Holiday meets Aretha Franklin meets Nina Simone meets Janis Joplin meets Etta James meets Sarah Vaughn meets Lauryn Hill meets Macy Gray meets Mary J Blige.
Alright so that wasn’t so simple, but i was amused at the unique blend of genres she presented..a blend of jazz,funk,soul,r’n’b,pop..basically pioneering the genre British Soul. Arguably, if there’s a reason for the success of artists like Adele, Lily Allen, Florence And The Machine, Duffy along with a wave of other British female vocalists in the US, it’s because Amy blazed a trail for them in the first place.
In the following years, ‘Back To Back’ went to # 1 globally, peaking at #1 in more than 18 countries including the UK. More than 12 million units of the album have been sold, and she’s the first and only British woman in history to win 5 Grammy’s in one night. In simple words,she kicked major ass. Period!
Ironically, ‘Rehab’,her biggest hit, was not my favourite Amy Winehouse song. In fact my real interest in the album was rekindled after i went through a rough patch a few months later.The broken hearted blues and the bullcrap that generally follows one.You know, the phase during which you feel like the world is not where you were meant to be and stuff?
And also when you find comfort in anything absolutely morbid? So it was natural that i suddenly found myself relating to the songs ‘Love Is A Losing Game’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’, etc. Before i knew it,the album ‘Back To Black‘ was on repeat for the most part of my daily existance..and it was a worthy soundtrack to that phase of my life, especially when i needed to break stuff,dream about murdering random people and cry (ahh..the memories.sigh again).
And when she came out with the video for the single ‘Back To Black’,where her heart was laid to rest in the end with the words ‘RIP the heart of Amy Winehouse‘ and lyrics like ‘You go back to her,and i go back to black‘, i could not help but feel a strange sense of comfort in the fact that there was no greater joy than seeing someone suffer more than you when you’re in the same boat (and you can stop judging me now..you’ve all been there). Coming back to the music though,her pain was palpable.The song ‘Back To Black’ became somewhat of an anthem for me, and saw me through the morbidity, so did another favourite ‘Love Is A Losing Game‘.
By that time Amy was a major success in the UK and Europe,although the US had yet to accept her genius.It was heartening to see that sense prevailed later on, and Amy became a staple on the Billboard Charts for the next few years. ‘Back To Black‘ peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart following her stupendous Grammy haul in 2009.
By then i was a staunch fan..and Amy’s debut album,the relatively less popular Mercury Prize nominated ‘Frank‘, released in 2003, was also a staple on my playlist. ‘Frank‘ is every bit as eclectic, and a toned down version of ‘Back To Black’. Explicit, soulful and lyrically everything that you would expect from Amy. ‘Frank‘ re-entered the charts during the meteoric rise of ‘Back To Black’, and reached a new peak of #3 on the UK albums charts following her tragic death last month.
Like for every other music fan, Amy’s death came as a shock to me, although in some small way,i wasn’t surprised.Over the last year, she was spiralling out of control, and she desperately needed to be restrained. My Facebook was filled with tributes,condolences,YouTube links etc by people who genuinely enjoyed her music, music fans and music geeks, as well as desperate skanks who had no idea who she was but who just wanted to be in the zone (losers).
For me, it was a tad personal.With her gone so suddenly, i was dragged back to a familiar morbid feeling without prior warning. A few memories that had been numbed by time came undone, and i was reminded vividly of what i went through back in the day while i went through my own ‘back to black‘ phase.The same phase that i had survived with her music being one of the few saving graces.And i’m pretty sure with her massive fan-base, i’m not the only one she’s helped out in her own way. It just felt unfair that there was no one to help her through her personal storm.
It was a sad sense of loss for someone who i had never met or known personally,but yet felt connected to in some inseparable way.I guess that’s what the power of music is.It makes you heal.
Maybe she’s healing now,and she’s finally found her peace.
RIP Amy..you really should not have said ‘no, no, no‘ to rehab.