Tons written this week about singer Amy Winehouse, dead at 27, joining the 27 Club consisting of other powerhouse musicians whose self-destructive behavior rivaled their gigantic talent–their lives cut short three years shy of 30. Legends Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain all died at 27; Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and guitarist/singer Chris Bell of Big Star, same stupidly short lifespan.
I find the 27 coincidence mildly interesting, but mostly irrelevant. The kind of minutiae teenage boys consider captivating. More pressing, in my view, should be a grand celebration of Winehouse’s deep, decadent vocals which reinvented the ’60s girl group sound with sharper edges, and harder heartbreak.
True, many critics have taken up the pen simply to honor Winehouse’s career cut short.
“Without Amy, there would have been no Adele, no Duffy, and no Lady Gaga,” wrote Adrian Thrills in the Daily Mail. Jim Farber, in the New York Daily News, noted: “At her sober best, Winehouse displayed a rich and resonant instrument, emotive enough for soul but skilled enough for jazz,” and called Winehouse’s 2006 album, Back to Black, “pitch perfect,” “an ideal batch of neo-soul songs, sounding as warm as its ’60s reference points, yet enlivened by a current sensibility.”
However, an ongoing tacky backlash on Facebook features plenty of people trash-talking Winehouse, arguing she wasn’t special enough to be included in Studio 27. She didn’t make enough albums. She didn’t feel her songs enough. She wasn’t Jim Morrison Mystical. I say, please, what’s the point comparing such diverse talents? Winehouse sang like a soulful truth-teller, leaving us with a list of songs likely to survive long years–she made costly mistakes, and ran out of time. If you’re going to speak ill of the talented dead, give Back to Black a close listen before you deny the troubled beehive-reviving artist a spot at cafeteria table 27, if you must enable the silly clique at all.
Back to Black earned six Grammy award nominations and five wins. Winehouse’s first album Frank was released in 2003. Rumors of a third album loom. Will you buy it? What do you think of the backlash? Ms. Winehouse way overrated or gone sorrowfully soon?