According to sources at BBC News, Amy Winehouse was found dead at her Camden flat. If confirmed, Winehouse will become the latest member of the 27 club. The 27 club consists of artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and other musicians who died at the age of 27. While the stigma remains as the coincidental age that all of these met their fate, it begs the question of how this affects how we look at Amy Winehouse from here.
Winehouse’s second album Back to Black elevated her to juggernaut stardom and under the production of super producer Mark Ronson, became a signature album for the troubled singer. The hit single “Rehab” was one of those stalwart singles that everybody was listening to – high school kids, parents, grandparents, even college radio enthusiasts had this single on vinyl. Nearly five years ago, the album feels like a lifetime away as we have seen her self destruct through drug addiction.
At first, it was charming to see her drunken rendition of “Beat it” on the Charlotte Church show and she became an interesting foil to the bubblegum barbie popstars that were flooding the airwaves and MTV. In time, she became a walking Lifetime Movie, TMZ report after TMZ report, youtube meme after youtube meme. She became the ultimate schadenfreude as we watched her linger in and out of social consciousness.
The last we heard, she was booed offstage from what was thought to be a comeback tour. Drunk and belligerent, she went through the set messily. From her tumultuous past, one was left to wonder how much was too much or if she would end up being our generation’s Keith Richards. At the age of 27, we’re left with some questions.
At the moment, there is no official word for cause of death, but we can wonder from here what this says about her legacy. Drug addict or not, Back to Black is still one of the most revered albums of the last decade and even though she hasn’t made much noise on the music side of things since its release in 2006, what are we going to remember most about Amy Winehouse a quarter to half a century from now.
At the time before Kurt Cobain’s death, Peal Jam’s Vs was outselling In Utero and recording was tumultuous for Hendix’s follow up to Electric Ladyland, but these facts don’t come into mention in assessing the legacy of these two. Furthermore, we can only wonder if we would have the same perceptions of people like Cobain and Hendrix and Morrison, if we had the access to celebrities’ personal lives we have now. What would TMZ make of Cobain’s heroin use, or Morrison’s acid binges? Is it fair, I don’t know. What we should keep in mind is that while Winehouse may be specifically remembered for her reckless behavior and drug addiction, one can’t forget that she was a talented singer with at least one of the better albums of the last decade.