I just learned from wire services that 27-year-old singer Amy Winehouse was found dead this afternoon in London (here is the Scotland Yard report without her name).
She was a remarkable vocal talent in the classic style but her battle with drugs was painful to watch. I saw a very hurt and confused little girl inside this beautiful woman with a rich soulful voice that stood with decades of the most prodigious singers, both African-American and white. (In my update below, Russell Brand wrote of her, “a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness.”)
Her trainwreck of a performance in Belgrade last month told me that her demise was forthcoming unless she sought (or was forced to seek) a vigorous drug addiction treatment program.
The most recent news I could find about her post-Belgrade life and concert tour cancellation was her appearance this past Wednesday evening in London at a performance by her teenage goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield.
Sadly, we’ll be adding to this post on the pharmacology of her death once more details become available.
Update 24 Jul, 7:40 pm: In the meantime, have a read of this superb discussion on the underlying causes of drug abuse by TIME Healthland writer Maia Szalavitz. I think many people might be surprised to learn that the drugs themselves are only part of the story.
One thing, however, is certain. Blaming drugs or Winehouse’s “enablers” for her death misses the point: what she needed was compassion, most of all from herself.
Szalavitz will also be following this week at Healthland with discussions of treatment options and strategies to minimize overdose deaths. Szalavitz speaks from firsthand experience as a person with drug addiction 20 years ago. She is co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered (Morrow, 2010), with Dr. Bruce D. Perry
Update 25 Jul, 5:45 am – Russell Brand, the British comedian and husband of singer Katy Perry, wrote a revealing and eloquent reflection on Winehouse from his experiences knowing her before she became famous just as he completed a rehabilitation program for his own substance dependence.
Finally, James Hannaham had this particularly prescient article on 14 December 2007 in Salon. His article begins,
We’re all expecting Amy Winehouse to die. It seems inevitable, given the ferocious soul singer’s combination of youth, chutzpah, talent, substance abuse and bad taste in men.
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