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Thank you, Russell Brand

I never really followed Amy Winehouse, or knew that much about her, other than peripheral awareness of the tabloid stuff about her drug problems. However, I knew that her death would dredge up a lot of anti-drug fervor and some ignorant comments.

And it did. I saw friends on Facebook who essentially wondered why anyone should bother eulogizing a disgusting drug-user like her…

… until they read Russell Brand’s OpEd in the Guardian on Sunday.

When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.

Frustratingly it’s not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene. […]

I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal. Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I’d only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound.

So now I knew. She wasn’t just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed-up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes. She was a fucking genius. […]

Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s or Jimi’s or Janis’s. Some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill.

We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call.

The definitive tribute to Amy.

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6 comments to Thank you, Russell Brand

  • Bill Hicks

    Stop pandering to Hollywood jackasses like Russell Brand who steal my material.

    P.S. – Do you really believe all those people died at age 27 by coincidence?

  • Peter

    I have been appalled at the vitriol and rage thrown at Amy Winehouse by many commentators on blogs, mostly along the lines of it was her choice, she deserved what she got etc. etc.
    Also, I have read a number of bloggers commenting that this just “proves” that the drug war must go on, ignoring the fact that, coroner’s report notwithstanding, it may eventually be shown that it was the lack of regulation in the drug market which caused her death.
    Brand captures the sense of Amy’s vulnerability, the side of her that was not genius but troubled addict everywoman: “her oddly dainty presence” and “all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet…” Amy has come to represent the tragic thousands who are not famous and talented but who are equally vulnerable to both the disease of addiction, and to the state directed prohibitonists who need a public scape-goat to blame.

  • darkcycle

    I had read about her troubles and had heard about the rehabs. I hadn’t heard her sing until I got the new Quincy Jones compilation. It has her doing a version of “It’s My Party (and I’ll cry if I want to)”. All it took was one verse. I was as hooked as I could be….and I just KNEW what comes next. He’s right…that voice wasn’t coming out of her, it was channeled from someone, somewhere else. I had never actually heard PAIN in that song before, when everybody else sang it, it was just so much pop music. Damn, did it hafta happen so soon?

  • David Marsh

    We live in a world culture that is addicted to inflicting pain on one another; child upon child, adult upon child, adult upon adult. We are blessed with artists that illuminate that pain through many media; Ms. Winehouse’s music was an example of that profound ability. She is gone and the tragedy is that the pain will continue and others will die.

  • vickyvampire

    Folks have said the most deplorable and unconscionable comments regarding Amy’s demise,Yet I’ve also read some heartfelt beautiful comments also.

    Yes Dave Marsh your so right (We live in a world culture that is addicted to inflicting pain on one another) Yeah so True.

    Yeah she did die way too early.