I first became aware of Amy Winehouse when Rolling Stone magazine put her on its cover.
She looked like a down at the heels Elvis (The Early Years) girlfriend wanna-be.
She had a huge bedraggled, black beehive of a hairdo.
Her eyes were outlined in coal-colored liner.
She was alarmingly thin.
She looked haunted.
The accompanying article infuriated me.
It had a morbid, death-watch sensibility.
I had no idea, that under the paint, tattoos, strung-out appearance, there was a young woman, with an uncanny, to my eyes, resemblance to Barbra Streisand, who possessed one of the greatest jazz voices in history.
Years, later, after she reportedly died of acute alcohol intoxication (or maybe just exhaustion at her comet-like rise and fall), I found an early video (https://vimeo.com/41804034) of Winehouse singing the Dinah Washington classic “Teach Me Tonight”. Amy was beautiful. Her sable hair gleamed. Her legs moved back and forth like a young colt’s beneath her short skirt. And then she began to sing. From the very first note, you realized that you were in the presence of a powerful, unique talent. Her sound had a cold wake-up call quality, like the ringing of a bell. It even moved, accompanied by the the hint of an Elvis lip sneer, down to the lowest register. It soared. It was authentic, convincing, transporting.
At the end of the video, the orchestra applauded her.
It was a brief glimpse of the master talent of Amy Winehouse.
She was drawn into drugs. They affected her intelligence, drive, choices.
She became more and more reckless.
She became, at the end, a caricature of herself.
Why was there no one to stop her?
There probably were family “interventions,” professional guidance.
But maybe what was really needed was legal action.
Perhaps if a guardian had been appointed to control her money and affairs the enablers would have faded away, moved on to other more accessible victims
Amy Winehouse’s death in 2011 at the age of 27 was a great loss.
One can only dream of what she could have accomplished.
Now, all most people will remember about her was a torn and tattered, child/woman stumbling around in the rain, drunk on a foreign stage.
But there are always those early videos where a young and shining star, with the voice of a knowing, sagacious older woman, emerged and enthralled us.