Me (a punter) and Amy Winehouse

RIP Amy – perhaps this is the first and last time that you’re free from the addict’s crave, your mind, your body, no longer sending those chemical impulses compelling you to take, no longer punishing you if you withdraw.

It’s a misleading title, suggesting that Amy and I had some sort of acquaintance. We didn’t. I was fortunate to see her live at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2007 where she also appeared as a guest at the Rolling Stones set. She was at the top of her game, peak of her powers in this year. Her 2006 album Back to Black was selling bucketloads, everyone knew who she was, her image and appearance unmistakable.

We were in the queue to get some Caribbean food from one of the market traders and Amy Winehouse and entourage pushed in front of us. Not close enough for a photo with her or autograph (not that her minders were allowing any of that, let me tell you) but near enough to get a clear look at the person and to hear her natural speaking voice as she ordered her lunch. Amy was underweight then and I was relieved she had an appetite. She had an unmistakable Londoner’s accent. Amy and her friends, who were also slender and similarly dressed then headed off in the direction of the Barcardi B tent. I saw Amy later that month at Glastonbury, I think on the Jazzworld stage, another day she did the Pyramid stage – she was everywhere! The next year 2008 on the Pyramid stage I remember thinking she was a little worse for wear, hair even bigger, but her performance was still pretty good, nothing like the slurred, out of it appearance in Serbia this year (which I saw on youtube). I don’t know if she’d managed to write any new material in the last four years. It seems like she was stuck in Back to Black.

2007 really was Amy’s year, recognised with numerous awards in 2008 including Grammy’s but towards the end of 2008 she unofficially emigrated to the Caribbean, presumably to escape from the permanent press attention who endlessly followed her around London getting snaps of her drunk in her underwear on the pavement. Amy’s void was soon filled by Duffy, Adele, Lady Gaga, Jessie J - someone’s record company buys the airwaves and festival slots and the public is instructed whose album to buy (even though we’d never heard of this person the year before) and they become the soundtrack to our personal summer. I’m not sure why we go along with it, it’s a bit 1984.

I don’t know what the pressure of fame and constant touring is like, but for Amy who was obviously incredibly talented but also troubled (and how often these go hand in hand) she needed something to numb reality, to escape from it – and there’s only one permanent release from life.

You don’t expect someone to die who’s younger than you, that’s not the natural order. So however inevitable her demise because we all knew she was addicted, painfully thin, not coping - you feel helpless – and you look away and buy this year’s girl’s album instead.

If this doesn’t help dissuade people from taking drugs… I’m not the first to say it but the irony of her hit song Rehab, of her surname.

I’ll remember your music Amy, but also I’ll remember seeing you in that food queue, having a little break to enjoy yourself at a music festival. I hope I get help when times are tough and I need an escape. RIP Amy, as a fellow Londoner would say, "rest in peace cos you earnt it."

(c) Wendy Thomson 2011

Image (c) Photo: Jon Furniss/WireImage
Jun 09, 2007