By guest blogger Mike Brown

Dominating the news this week has been the death of Amy Winehouse. It’s been quite difficult to bring myself to write this article, and not through an overwhelming outpouring of emotion.

A few things have troubled me about this story.

Firstly, didn’t we all hate her? I thought she was a worthless junkie who was spiraling out of control with a cocktail of Class A drugs? The British media labeled her “Amy Wino,” as a light hearted jab at her battles with addiction.

Then, when she dies, she is hailed as one of the greatest musical icons of an age, defining the music of her generation and a tragic loss.

So which one is it?

Personally, I think this says a lot about our attitude to music and the people who make it and it’s not exactly positive.

I do think it’s tragic when anyone dies, whether it is because of an extremist with a gun in Norway, or because of a well-publicized battle with addiction. Whether they are old or young, famous, gifted and talented or not. But let’s not blow this out of proportion.

Winehouse was heading down this path long ago, and the British public, instead of showing her the kind of support they are now displaying posthumously, decided instead to splat her on front of every page, stumbling out of nightclubs, giving her unpleasant nicknames that make light of what was clearly quite a serious addiction and using her as a poster girl for anti-drug propaganda.

Then she dies and the floods of grief are similar to that of those for Princess Diana, with people holding vigils outside her house and her album sales going through the roof.

Listening to the news on the radio yesterday, I heard someone suggest that, “You had Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley…they weren’t a patch on her…” Really? The BBC website inducts her into the “great 27 club,” the famous (and apparently growing) list of musicians who have died at the age of 27. Previous members include Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and also Kurt Cobain. Now Amy Winehouse is amongst them. I can’t help but think that this is more of a lucky coincidence of her age rather than a testament to her talent.

I’m not doubting for a second that she was talented, but lets not pretend that she wasn’t troubled. Let’s not put her on this pedestal because of her untimely death.

I’m not here to berate the woman. I’m sure her family are devastated, as are her genuine fans all over the world, but I refuse to get swept up in the Winehouse mania that has begun in this country. I wasn’t a fan in life, and I shan’t be going out to buy her entire back catalog now that she’s dead, regardless of the circumstances.

So, I think this situation holds a mirror up to the British media and the music industry in general, but also to the general public who are just as quick to burn down the straw men that they create. The sad fact is that you have to die to become popular and gain approval.

My condolences go out to the family, friends and all those genuine fans out there who are no doubt inconsolable.

Amy, rest in peace. You were talented and the British public should be ashamed of the way they treated you in life, and now it seems the way they remember you in death.


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