Paul Lester reads the latest ad­di­tion to the reser­voir of lit­er­a­ture on the star, and finds some poignant ob­ser­va­tions AMY WINE­HOUSE: THE BI­OG­RA­PHY

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

By Chas Newkey-Bur­den John Blake, £17.99 RE­VIEWED BY PAUL LESTER

ONE OF THE prob­lems in­volved in writ­ing a bi­og­ra­phy about a su­per-celebrity like Amy Wine­house or her US coun­ter­part i n t he tor­tured young diva stakes, Brit­ney Spears, is that it is im­pos­si­ble to keep pace with the speed at which events in their life are re­layed to us in this end­lessly up­dated In­ter­net-scur­ril age. Chas Newkey-Bur­den’s ac­count takes us up to late 2007, with a brief ref­er­ence on the book jacket to the five stat­uettes she re­ceived at Fe­bru­ary’s Grammy awards in the States.

So the story is al­ready about three months out of date, when you con­sider that Wine­house is pretty much head­line news on a daily, some­times even hourly, ba­sis.

It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that, with books about volatile, mer­cu­rial char­ac­ters such as Wine­house and Spears, the dan­ger is that, by the time they are pub­lished, the artists in ques­tion might fea­si­bly be dead.

Wine­house gives few in­ter­views th­ese days, and she was never go­ing to agree to be in­ter­viewed for this bi­og­ra­phy, not when she could eas­ily com­mand a seven-fig­ure sum if and when she runs out of mu­si­cal ideas and de­cides to pen her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

And so Newkey-Bur­den, who is cur­rently col­lab­o­rat­ing with Julie Burchill on a tome called Not In My Name: A Com­pen­dium Of Mod­ern Hypocrisy, has to rely upon sec­ond­hand quotes from cut­tings and in­ter­views with sub­sidiary play­ers in the Wine­house saga.

Nor­mally, that means half-truths and semi-in­sight­ful rem­i­nis­cences but, in the case of Wine­house, a NorthLon­don Jewish girl from whom surely many read­ers of the JC have only one or two de­grees of sep­a­ra­tion, the anec­dotes of close fam­ily mem­bers or school­friends and teach­ers from the Osidge Pri­mary School in South­gate, the Mount School in Mill Hill or the Sylvia Young Theatre School, can prove quite re­veal­ing.

Wine­house’s mother, Janis Turner, and cab­bie fa­ther Mitch, are quoted fre­quently and, even though they are not all first-hand, the quotes help cre­ate the im­age of a three-di­men­sional wo­man of­ten in dan­ger of re­sem­bling a 2D car­i­ca­ture of her­self, all gi­ant bee­hive, livid tat­toos and junkie scars.

Ac­tu­ally, it’s a mu­sic jour­nal­ist, Garry Mul­hol­land, who best and most pithily cap­tures the con­tra­dic­tory hu­man be­ing when he says of Wine­house: “Sounds Afro-Amer­i­can; is Bri­tish-Jewish. Looks sexy; won’t play up to it. Is young; sounds old. Sings so­phis­ti­cated; talks rough. Mu­si­cally mel­low; lyri­cally nasty.”

Fi­nally, though, it is Wine­house her­self who of­fers the most poignant glimpse of the straight­for­ward Jewish girl be­hind the drug-and-drink-rav­aged tabloid mon­ster when she says: “I’m a nice girl. Ev­ery­one says I’m a bitch, but, like the stuff in the pa­pers, it’s only the bad stuff. It’s not go­ing to make the pa­pers if I cook din­ner for 12 of my best friends and we have a lovely night do­ing noth­ing but talk­ing and laugh­ing…

“I’m just a lit­tle Jewish house­wife, re­ally.” Un­til she puts pen to pa­per her- self, this is prob­a­bly as good as we’re go­ing to get on the sub­ject for now. Paul Lester is cur­rently work­ing on a bi­og­ra­phy of post-punk band Gang of Four


The bee­hived, tat­tooed, trou­bled and ac­claimed South­gate songstress

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