‘Tittle-tattle’ trumps talent in Winehouse tragedy
OUTSIDE AMY Winehouse’s Camden Square house are various improvised shrines to the star. Some display flowers, personal notes and the usual array of offerings. Most, though, contain bottles of rum and vodka, cigarette packs, and joints. On one there’s a picture of a small crack pipe.
This isn’t just idiotic behaviour – it’s irresponsible and inflammatory. Would these misguided mourners leave a bullets at a shrine in Oslo for the murder victims there?
As the time comes to pass Amy over to the commentariat, who will have their tedious way with her in the weekend’s papers, it behoves everyone with a sense of all that is good and true to have a look at Russell Brand’s essay on the singing star. Brand is in a unique position to comment on Amy Winehouse in that he was a personal friend and shared “the affliction of addiction” with her.
He writes: “The destructive personal relationships, the blood soaked ballet slippers, the aborted shows, that youtube madness with the baby mice,” Brand writes (see russellbrand.tv). “In the public perception this ephemeral tittle- tattle replaced her timeless talent. This and her manner in our occasional meetings brought home to me the severity of her condition.”
It’s instructive how the culture at large views addiction among the rich and famous, as mediated through media coverage. According to Brand, “Our media is more interested in tragedy than talent, so the ink began to defect from praising Amy’s gift to chronicling her downfall”.
It is not just the migration of coverage from the music pages to the tabloid front pages that is at issue here; it’s within music coverage itself that the dangerous and stupid myths of rock’n’roll are reinforced at every turn. This is an industry where you’re handed a drink (or some other form of “pick-me-up“) before, during and after work.
Drink and drugs have become inexorably linked with the profession. That’s one thing, but to laud their use as evidence of “rock’n’rollness” is pathetic.
Writing in the Guardian, journalist Tanya Gold wonders about that why do “we give so much energy to the thrilling pantomime of an alcoholic dying in the public eye and so little to understanding the illness that took her there?” The answer is depressingly simple: rock’n’roll is all about image and perception and not reality.
But its hard to have sympathy for the plight of multimillionaire stars who are, generally speaking, the architects of their own downfall. How galling it must be for people with serious life-threatening diseases to be asked to view a rock star’s wilful self-indulgence as “a disease”, given that they are “active agents in their own difficulties” and were “not coerced into this lifestyle” (as the comments had it this week).
The average music fan is exposed to so much imagery about alcohol from an early age, it’s a wonder any of them can disassociate music from getting hammered. The two have become so intermeshed that it’s almost as if “you can’t have one without the other”.
As Brand has it: “Addiction is a serious disease that will end with jail, mental institutions or death. . . . All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition – not as a crime or romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill.”
Party like there’s no tomorrow: one of many tributes to Amy Winehouse