I first listened to Amy Winehouse on the suggestion of a friend who had picked up on Winehouse well before she had become a mainstream name, and like many aficionados, was struck by the soul and virtuosity of her singing. She was destined for greatness, my friend told me, and so I listened to his copy of Back to Black, the album that would make Winehouse famous.
The first track is “Rehab,” Winehouse’s biggest hit. “They tried to make me go to rehab,” the song begins, “but I said no, no, no.” I remember pausing the song and looking up Winehouse, learning in short order just how deep her addictions ran. This was a star who was not just in league with drugs and alcohol, but was using them to fuel a kamikaze mission against herself. Knowing that, I couldn’t take any pleasure from her music, and I turned away from it. Hers was a sad story already, and it did not take a fortune-teller to see how it would end.
In the years that followed, it became impossible to miss the headlines about Winehouse. The extremity of her behavior and star appeal made her a recurring fixture on tabloid front pages, which chronicled her tumultuous relationships, run-ins with the law, trips to the ER and chronic visits to neighborhood taverns.
Her celebrity appearances became increasingly sad as she showed up to interviews drunk or on game shows where the other participants openly made fun of her. Especially heartbreaking was Winehouse’s father, who repeatedly pleaded with his daughter through the press to seek help. At one point, he asked her fans to stop buying her albums, in the hopes that if she had less money with which to fund her habits, she might hit rock bottom sooner and in turn, get the help she needed.