Monday, July 25, 2011

To Miss Winehouse

"When the headline 'Amy Winehouse found dead at 27' came barging into our Saturday afternoon, the word 'dead' felt like a long-promised punch to the gut. It may not have surprised anyone, but it still hurt like hell."

Chris Richard of the Washington Post to started his tribute to the late Amy Winehouse who was found dead last weekend with this quote.  While jokes reverberated around the internet calling her death the "least surprising news ever," people like myself who loved her music and respected her art are left not with dark humor but rather a sadness.  Any schadenfreude that anyone may feel from this is the worst kind of reaction and a reflection of a darkness and insensitivity that is sub-human.  

Why am I sad that Amy Winehouse is dead?  I mean it's not like she was a life-saving surgeon.  Sometimes we overact when celebrities die, just because someone is famous doesn't mean their life means anything more than any other person who dies outside of the limelight.  Of course I'm more sad thinking about the loss of my grandfather, but there is something meaningful in a different way about the loss of Winehouse.

Music can be an expression of the whole range of human emotions.  While I respect the art of creating music that explores the darker emotions of anger and hate, I don't the enjoy music that does expresses these emotions.  There is so much darkness in this world.  The last week has seen unimaginable tragedy in Norway, so I don't want hear a song about killing and Satan.  What we need in this world, what I need is music that brings us joy.  We need music that reminds us how great it feels to be alive.  In her short career Amy Winehouse dedicated her life to creating music that did just that.

I still remember the first time I her "Rehab," and her cover of "It's My Party."  I was giddy.  It simply felt righteous.  Her work with Mark Ronson grabbed popular music by the collar and said "hey, you remember how good music felt the in the 1960s with live instruments, great arrangements, imaginative song-writing and soulful vocals felt?"  Every so often an artist comes around and shake us out of forward-thinking music trends and remind us that is it in the glories of the past, reveling in music of a cultural ancestors that we find truly meaningful art.

Winehouse isn't alone.  Cee-Lo is playing off of 1970s soul, Lady Gaga is reflecting the greatest of the 1980s and Glee has created a whole musical movement based on embracing the past.  It is this respect, this admiration, and this dedication to old music that has created the greatest music in our culture.

Amy Winehouse's music made me feel amazing.  I can't help but move when I hear her songs and I can't help but smile when I hear her sing.  It doesn't seem fair how good she was, it's unreal.  Yes, her voice is a warbaly mess at times but like Janis Joplin, it's not about the vocal technique, it's about the soul.  There was a direct line from her heart to her voice and what you heard in her singing was human expression at its purest.

Thanks Amy for sharing your music and your soul with the world.  I hope you find the same joy wherever you are that you're music brought into my life.

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