‘Tit­tle-tat­tle’ trumps tal­ent in Wine­house tragedy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

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

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