Tears Dry On Their Own
I first saw Amy Winehouse at an open-air festival in Sussex. She was one of the support artists, and before the gig, she could be seen wandering around the venue eating an ice cream, chatting to anyone who approached her, responding with a shy smile. Her voice was a mixture of Jazz and Blues, and it seemed to me that she could sing almost any song I liked, and make it sound better. I thought that she was the best new talent to emerge in the UK in my lifetime, and I believed she would go on to be one of the greatest performers that this country had ever seen.
Less than eight years later, she was dead. A life marred by drug and alcohol abuse had taken its toll, and her tiny frame could take no more. She had only released two albums, and her performing career had been notable for excesses, rather than successes. She made a bad choice with the man in her life, and found it hard to cope with fame at a young age. Hounded by the press, vilified in the media, she never really had a chance. Towards the end, with an emaciated, heavily-tattooed body, unkempt hair and bad attitude, she was unrecognisable as the pleasant young woman I had first seen, with her bobbed hair, and retro 1960s look.
But what a voice, and how she could sing. Like Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday, Janis Joplin, and so many others who made unfortunate choices, every moment of heartbreak and despair came through in her vocals. As we lived near to her, in Camden, North London, we would see her often, wandering around Inverness Street with a huge minder looking out for her. She was often staggering, sometimes talking loudly, always obviously disturbed. As one of her biggest fans, I always found this terribly sad to see. Her legacy is painfully sparse. Nonetheless, every song is a gem, and her recordings will live on for much longer than she did, dying at the far too young age of 27.
I could pick any song she wrote really, as they are all significant to me. However, the track I have chosen has lyrics that are so personal to her, yet so poignant for anyone who has suffered rejection and heartbreak. It is also a very simple song, and is reminiscent of Motown and Soul songs of my youth. So, an obvious choice really. If you know nothing of her work, please explore further, and seek out more gems. If you decided you didn’t want to know about her, because of bad press, or her questionable attitude, please give her another chance. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I like her.