Local music scene reacts to Winehouse deathWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Many Toledo musicians expressed the same emotion regarding Amy Winehouse’s July 23 death — a lack of surprise.
The British singer, 27, was found dead in her London apartment on July 23. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
“I wasn’t too surprised,” said Amjad Doumani, owner of B-Bop Records, who found out on Facebook. “But it’s always sad when someone so young dies.”
The petite songstress with the big voice famously sang about her troubles with love, alcohol and drugs on her 2006 album “Back to Black.” The album won five Grammys and featured the hit single “Rehab” about Winehouse’s refusal to seek help. Pat O’Connor, owner of Culture Clash Records and a self-described former addict, said that song stuck out to him because “it’s so anti what I think.”
Aaron Brown, a Toledo-based DJ who also learned about Winehouse’s death on Facebook, said, “I was surprised that many of my friends A. cared, B. were surprised.” He added that although Winehouse had a good voice, “past that she was just a famous junkie.”
Other area musicians also said they noticed the irony of the song’s shocking lyrics.
“Based on her escalating self-destructive behavior, her death came as no surprise. ‘Rehab’ foretold it,” said Doreen Robideaux, lead singer of the Frostbite Band.
“It (‘Rehab’) was kind of funny and maybe a little tongue-in-cheek and a little rebellious,” said Ryan Bunch, performing and literary arts coordinator for the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. Still, he added of her attitude, “Ironically and ultimately, that’s what killed her.”
Danni Stinson, poet, spoken-word artist and entrepreneur, said the song “Tears Dry on Their Own” inspired her and helped her through bad relationships.
“She was actually one of my favorite artists,” Stinson said. “I was hoping she’d get back on track.”
However, Stinson said when she saw footage of Winehouse’s last public performance in Belgrade, Serbia, she knew the opposite was true.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘this poor baby’,” said Kim Buehler, singer for 6th Edition and jazz educator, of Winehouse’s onstage slurring. Winehouse canceled the rest of her European tour after being booed off the stage.
Chavar Dontae, a local musician who just signed with Submerge in Detroit, said he learned of Winehouse’s death on Twitter.
“I hope people don’t make her whole legacy the problems she had,” Dontae said. Winehouse’s honesty in her song lyrics inspired Dontae. “I believed what she said and that’s the way I look at songwriting.”
Others also noted Winehouse’s upfront approach to her music.
“Amy was a natural talent, and what I mean by that was that she did not have to contrive a sound or an image. She was who she was,” said Megan Yasu Davis, an area musician.
O’Connor said he doubts Winehouse’s problems will cause anyone to give up drugs.
“Not one drug addict thinks, ‘That’s going to happen to me’,” he said.
Calvin Cordy, guitarist for Prayers for Rain, also said he didn’t think Winehouse’s death would motivate anyone to give up drugs or alcohol.
“It’s just the same as Courtney Love — predictable,” he said.
Still, many like Stinson found Winehouse’s sudden death “heartbreaking” if not surprising. Like Dontae, Stinson said she found inspiration in Winehouse’s lyrics and would write with Winehouse’s music playing.
Buehler, who felt sick after reading about Winehouse’s death, said that although many people wish they possessed talent like Winehouse’s, people with “creative talent are often tortured by it.”
Winehouse among music talents gone too soon
By Jake Coyle
Associated Press Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Amy Winehouse released only two albums in her life, one of which sold more than a million copies, won five Grammys and sparked a retro soul movement that hasn’t yet stopped.
The small output, in inverse relation to her outsized talent, made her death July 23 in London all the more tragic. Fans will only be able to imagine the unrecorded singles, the never-to-be concerts and the comeback album that didn’t come.
It’s a sadly familiar script in pop music, the history of which is checkered with greats and would-be greats snuffed out too early in life.
Almost as soon as news of Winehouse’s death broke and spread across social media, fans were inducting her into the unfortunate pantheon of music talents gone too soon. Many noted that Winehouse, 27, shared the same age at death as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison.
“You would think that Amy Winehouse would clean up her act given that,” Danni Stinson, poet, spoken-word artist and entrepreneur, said.
“Americans talk about Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin in this kind of romantic way,” said Ryan Bunch, performing and literary arts coordinator for the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. “I would hope that it’s at least a wake-up call for kids that it’s really not that glamorous.”
The British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, though, realized that a meaningful commonality was being mistaken for coincidence.
“It’s not age that Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain & Amy have in common,’’ wrote Bragg on Twitter. “It’s drug abuse, sadly.’’
Those names were touted on the Web as the 27 Club, a ghoulish glamourizing of rock star death that makes it sound as though even in death VIPs remain behind a seductive velvet rope.
It’s a term, sometimes called the Forever 27 Club, that has spawned a Wikipedia entry, an independent 2008 movie (“The 27 Club”), numerous websites and at least one book (“The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll’’).
The causes of death vary. Jones, the Rolling Stones guitarist, was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool in 1969 and was ruled dead “by misadventure.’’ Hendrix, having mixed sleeping pills and wine, died in 1970 in a London hotel room. Joplin, also in 1970, died in her Porsche in Los Angeles, with heroin suspected as the culprit. Morrison died of heart failure in 1971 in the bathtub of his Paris apartment. Cobain killed himself in 1994.
Some have claimed Cobain was aware of the so-called 27 Club. After his death, his mother, Wendy O’Connor, was understandably fed up with the concept, saying: “I told him not to join that stupid club.’’
Early death typically mythologizes pop stars, inflating their reputation. Pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman, in his book “Killing Yourself to Live,’’ wondered why “the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing.’’
The posthumous releases from Winehouse will surely follow, and her legacy will grow. But hopefully mythologizing will be resisted.
Winehouse’s death, an unfortunate but unsurprising end to a long, public decline, might be best remembered not just as another tragic loss but as a modern portrait of how untrue those rock myths really are.
Tags: Aaron Brown, Amjad Doumani, Amy Winehouse, Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, B-Bop Records, Calvin Cordy, Chavar Dontae, Courtney Love, Culture Clash, Danni Stinson, Doreen Robideaux, Facebook, Frostbite Band, Kim Buehler, Megan Yasu Davis, Pat O'Connor, Prayers for Rain, Ryan Bunch