Those closest to the much-mourned singer Amy Winehouse, most of all her parents, had been worried about her for a long time. No one ever said Amy Winehouse the artist was a choir girl, and she was prime prey for the media, as her vices sold papers. With widespread tribute now being paid, her songs are back in the charts, proof, if any was needed, of the singer’s musical virtues.
To examine this, euronews talked to Neil Sean, in London, a journalist who specialises in entertainment stories.
Leslie Alexander, euronews: I can’t help thinking, Neil that there is a lot of hypocrisy at the moment. Now that she is dead, everyone is hailing Amy Winehouse’s undeniable talent. Yet for years the tabloids ghoulishly feasted off her chaotic lifestyle and self-destruction.
Neil Sean: Well you are spot on. I think what is really interesting is the swift turnaround. If you recall, say, two or three years ago, a tabloid newspaper had a big picture of Amy looking the worse for wear with the headline: “Please someone save her!” And you are thinking, well what other message do you need to put out there?
But suddenly now she is being compared to legends like Billie Holliday, Edith Piaf, things like that. I do kind of think, well, hang on a minute… a lot of you people have earned a very good living from this unfortunate young lady. And so, consequently, maybe they are actually wondering now who the next person is they could look towards, because obviously people love a victim.
euronews: Well there are certainly plenty of those around in the tabloid world. And of course a lot of her fan base are vulnerable teenagers. And these are the people who were looking up to this drink-and-drugs lifestyle. You just need to take a look at the tributes outside her house: not just flowers but cigarettes and vodka!
Sean: Amy herself kind of encouraged the tabloid pack, so I’m not too surprised that people are now, you know, outside of her house leaving these rather strange gifts, [the sort of things which] actually killed her. Mostly, when legends like Marylyn Monroe or, going way back to the 20s, Rudolf Valentino [died], people just cried and left flowers and candles. Not with this lady. Very strange.
euronews: Well drugs, of course, have always been around in pop music, but the difference now, Neil, is that its much more ‘in your face’, if you like, with the tabloids, with YouTube. Is that part of the problem, do you think?
Sean: We now have or we now live in a more sort of accessible media world, you know. People know exactly what to do. Remember, somebody can film any celebrity misbehaving instantly on their
Blackberry or mobile, whatever they’ve got, and whack that on to YouTube or any social networking site. And then, consequently, you know, their bad behaviour can be glamorised.
My real thoughts go out to her parents, because Mitch and Janice did really try their best. They are just normal parents with a daughter who became an international star who couldn’t really cope with the level of fame, and I think, more interestingly, was attracted to the darker side of the underworld and people who exploited her.
euronews: There is much talk, Neil, about Amy Winehouse joining the so-called ’27 Club’ – troubled music stars who lived fast and died young – aged 27. It is almost like this sort of tragic end is romanticised in pop culture?
Sean: Do you know, one thing that Amy said to me, I think it would be around about 2004, just after her first album… she made some comment in the interview about how, you now, we were talking about what becomes a legend most, if you like. You know, why do people get remembered and others don’t? And she actually said ‘I don’t think I’ll make old bones’. I thought it was a rather strange thing for a young girl to say, you know… a very strange sort of quip. But I don’t necessarily believe that Amy herself wanted to join this alleged club. I do think it’s an unfortunate situation that many of these stars died at such a young age. I don’t think that is what she set out to do. I do kind of think that she was down a path that even she couldn’t stop.
Winehouse: vices, virtues and the media