Sadly, it didn’t take much effort to fill in the blanks when the partial “Singer Amy Winehouse…” headline came over as a smartphone news alert. Sadder still, no one was surprised to read the rest of the message.
Shocked, yes, but surprised, no. And after the shock settled in, there was so little besides the obvious left to say–which was saddest of all.
“Some people can’t handle it and it’s terribly sad,” said Sandra Bernhard via Twitter. “Another great talent gone gone gone. Amy Winehouse.” She added, insightfully, moments later: “No one is ever ready for stardom. The kids need to slow down, and everyone pushing them needs to back the f*** off.”
That Winehouse essentially telegraphed it all with her signature hit “Rehab” only served to compound both the dreadful ease of acceptance of her drug-infused downfall and tragic demise, and the sense that the song will now be downgraded to a prophetic epitaph, one that obscures her true talents and influence.
“She was highly intelligent and musical, and a soulful person,” says Tennessee Thomas, drummer for the acclaimed girl group The Like, who was born in England and now lives in New York. “But her personality overshadowed the fact that she was an incredibly talented singer and songwriter–the best thing we had.”
Thomas, at 26 a year younger than Winehouse, recalls the first time she heard the titletrack hit from Winehouse’s landmark 2006 second album Back To Black.
“Nothing sounded like that!” she says. “She was young and so musical and had such extensive knowledge of soul music and girl groups after the jazz style of the first album. All of a sudden something seemed possible that hadn’t seemed possible: Someone was alive and young and could record something classic and very exciting, and it influenced the past five years of my life and changed the course of it. She paved the way for Adele–who wouldn’t exist without her–and we were extremely excited when we got to follow her footsteps.”
In addition to her knowledge of music and sogwriting talent, Winehouse was “a lot of fun,” says Thomas.
“I only met her a few times, but I always thought she was really cool,” she notes. “She had a twinkle in her eye and always winked everything off–but when someone actually dies everything changes.”
Thomas explains: “Her biggest song is ‘Rehab.’ People who don’t know her can write her off as a bit of a joke, but the fact is that she wrote all those other songs on Back To Black that are so emotional–‘You Know I’m No Good,’ ‘Tears Dry On Their Own,’ ‘Back To Black.’ She was our generation’s star, really.”
But through it all, Winehouse succeeded in transcending generations.
“[She] was an artist of immense proportions and I am deeply saddened to learn of her tragic passing,” Tony Bennett said in a statement. “She was an extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist and I am truly devastated that her exceptional talent has come to such an early end.”
In March, Bennett recorded a duet version of the jazz standard “Body And Soul” with Winehouse, for his upcoming Duets II album. He said later that she was his favorite collaborator among a lineup also including Lady Gaga and Willie Nelson, and that she had been thrilled when he told her that she reminded him of his friend Dinah Washington.
“She was a lovely and intelligent person,” he said, echoing Thomas, “and when we recorded together she gave a soulful and extraordinary performance. I was honored to have the opportunity to sing with her. It had been my sincere hope that she would be able to overcome the issues she was battling and I send my deepest sympathy to her father Mitchell, her entire family and all of those who loved her.”