The Devil and Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse at GeeJam Studios in Jamaica 2010 courtesy of the Jamaica Observer

Amy Winehouse had quite possibly the best pipes in the vocal industry this side of the 21 century, in my humble opinion. She was also bedeviled by a most horrible addiction to heroin, Ecstasy, cocaine, alcohol and possibly crack. Opiate addiction is really never your friend: the conversations are hazy and one-sided, the laughs are always on you, the trips are short-lived and the breakups are almost always violent and end up doing a number on your body, mind and soul. Like a guest who wont leave the party, getting rid of an opiate addiction is traumatic and takes a will of steel to kick them out and keep the club doors locked long after the janitors have been through it.

I once met a catholic priest who said he once had to make a choice of giving up one of his two addictions, alcohol or cigarettes… he chose alcohol but regretted it almost instantaneously! Between the shakes, the irritability, nausea and general crabbiness, he swore the “dry drunk” phase was going to kill him. The physical and psychological side effects often brings addicts back to the drug of choice instead of seeing it through to the other side; and then there’s the catch 22 of what to do instead when you’re stressed out.

Addiction to anything at all is only a symptom of a much deeper issue, though it is a particularly nasty symptom at that. Amy was no different and her addictions spoke of an even more intense battle with mental illness. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder – (I or II, i’m not really sure but I suspect I) and refused to be compliant with her medication. This mental illness is categorized as a mood disorder with the person experiencing phases of mania- racing thoughts and speech, aggression, grandiose ideas, hyperactivity, insomnia interspersed with equally dramatic phases of deep depression- not bathing, staying in bed all day, withdrawal, tearfulness, feelings of self-hatred, hopelessness and despair.  This disorder can see you starting 4 businesses, giving away all your possessions and marrying a stranger in one month and then cleaving to your bed in a hapless, hopeless, broke and bleak state for another 3 months. The swinging of mood affects ones ability to function socially as well as occupationally and as such Bipolar Disorder has the highest rate of completed suicides of all diagnosed Mental illnesses. This is not to say Amy committed suicide, but if she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, chances are it may have crossed her mind. Its a terrible disease and withstanding its ravages is a tremendous lifelong feat.

That being said Bipolar disorder is said to be responsible for immense bouts of imagination and creativity in such persons as Sinead O’Connor,  Virginia Woolf, Robin Williams, Vincent Van Gogh, Tim Burton, and Ted Turner. Amy Winehouse will surely be added to these annals. For many people with this disorder there is a way back, and Sinead credited staying on her medications and having children to stabilize her as her anchor; unfortunately for some people, like Amy, there is no way back.

But back to the pipes! Amy Winehouse has/had an incredible Voice. The full on instrumentals, great arrangement and an old school big band sound was a welcome respite from autotune and pimp juice- UGH!

The world has lost a great singer at what I hope is the beginning of a reemergence of real and full bands creating and playing thoughtful passionate music. Amy herself spoke disparagingly of the music of the Two-thousands and longed for  real music to come back. She provided much of that comeback in her record breaking, 5 Grammy- taking Back to Black album. I played it relentlessly at top volume and sang alongside all of her heartrendingly raw hits in my shower, in my car, walking down the road and in my office. I shared her album with every willing and non-willing soul I met. I loved her music plain and straight!

She came to Jamaica in 2010 as part of her self-imposed rehab, to the beautiful and peaceful Port Antonio, where she recorded several songs at GeeJam studios presumably for a new album. We were  quite thrilled to have her here, and our notorious nonchalance for international celebrities momentarily gave way to a small paparazzi-fueled  buzz about her exact whereabouts.

Amy Winehouse lost this epic battle with a devil of a disorder but her music lives on eternally! Thank you AMY!  Hopefully, She is in a place of peace and much less drama..missed but never forgotten. So set your equalizer right for this one and enjoy Loudly 🙂