Houston, TX, July 27, 2011—Yesterday, Amy Winehouse was buried. In honor of her family heritage, the ceremony was carried out privately in the Jewish tradition.
Sadly, the 27 year-old songstress is just the latest in a lengthy list of brilliant women who destroy themselves in a vain attempt to impress – and endure – this fallen world.
In the last few years of Amy’s life, the idiom, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die,” was lived out in sickening starkness.
On Saturday, July 23, Amy became the latest casualty in an entertainment industry tradition who tragically self-destruct. Selling their souls and gambling their very lives, they strive to satisfy pop culture’s carnal ideal of a lavish party-girl lifestyle and a physically emaciated frame maliciously alleged by some to be the pinnacle of beauty.
While the average person may look upon female celebrities as fortunate beings enjoying fairytale lifestyles, the stories of these remarkable women often don’t have happy endings. Despite money, fame, and the adoration of millions of fans, the lives of many divas are often twisted and warped into something worse than tragedy, and closer to horror.
Best known for her rebellious retro-soul song, Rehab, which was hailed by Time Magazine as the Best Song of 2007, Amy Winehouse battled with drug addiction and endured the hazards of an out-of-control lifestyle for many years before her untimely demise. While it’s not yet known whether controlled substances were a direct cause of her death, it’s safe to say that drugs played a major role in damaging and weakening her body and spirit alike.
“They tried to make me go to rehab and I said, ‘No, no, no!’
Yes, I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know, know, know.
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine,
He’s tried to make me go to rehab, but I won’t go, go, go.”
– Lyrics from the song, Rehab, by Amy Winehouse
Having swept the 2007 Grammy Awards, Winehouse was considered by many to be a paramount pop artist of the last decade. Eerily like Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, Winehouse died at the age of 27, instantly gaining her membership into what some have dubbed the 27 Club.
More disturbing is the fact that Winehouse’s erratic life and tragic death followed in the well-worn footsteps of a vast number of high-profile female singers and actresses who have destroyed their lives and bodies by misusing drugs.
Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915, and died July 17, 1959 of liver and heart disease resulting from her incessant use of narcotics. “She had been strikingly beautiful,” stated Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, “but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself. The worms of every kind of excess – drugs were only one – had eaten her.”
Similarly, jazz singer and Grammy winner Dinah Washington, who was born August 29, 1924, died of an overdose of barbiturates on December 14, 1963. She was an Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, commonly dubbed The Queen of the Blues.
Ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute, Marilyn Monroe was born on June 1, 1926, and died on August 5, 1962, again from an overdose of barbiturates. To this day there is some contention as to whether her death was accidental or intentional. However, the coroner’s report cites “probable suicide” as the cause. Monroe was just 36 years of age.
Renowned songbird and actress Judy Garland was born on June 10, 1922, and died on June 22, 1969, after yet another overdose of barbiturates. The idealistic little girl who portrayed Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, had for years been deeply embittered by the sexism and cutthroat attitudes dominating the entertainment industry. A serial divorcée, Garland was extremely negative with regard to her physical appearance and self-image. That insecurity was further exacerbated by abusive film executives who repeatedly told Garland that she was ugly, and manipulated her appearance in film and photography.
More recently, Janis Joplin, dubbed by many as “The Queen of Rock and Roll,” was born on January 19, 1943, and died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970. Most of Joplin’s friends were also heavily involved in the drug culture, and several additional customers of Joplin’s heroin dealer also overdosed that very same week.
Anna Nicole Smith was born November 28, 1967, and died less than a year after her only son, Daniel Smith, died tragically due to an overdose of prescription drugs, including an anti-depressant. Smith was devastated, and on February 8, 2007, accidentally overdosed on a lethal cocktail of medications (originally prescribed to Howard Stern), including a powerful sedative.
Born November 10, 1977, actress and singer, Brittany Murphy died on December 20, 2009 of pneumonia, complicated by anemia and accidental intoxication from prescription drugs. While pneumonia was cited as the primary cause of death, Murphy’s medical report noted, “The possible adverse physiological effects of elevated levels of these medications cannot be discounted, especially in her weakened state.”
Murphy was extremely underweight in the weeks leading up to her death, which led some to hypothesize as to whether she had an eating disorder or cocaine addiction. Murphy denied all such rumors, but admitted to being underweight.
Clueless director, Amy Heckerling said, “Maybe she felt like she was not the … skinny, pretty girl, you know? … I think she felt the pressure to become a different sort of commodity to survive in show business, and I think it was awful.”
Lindsay Lohan, though she miraculously remains alive, has also followed in the footsteps of these tragic divas by her pronounced tendencies toward alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and anorexia. The actress, pop singer, and model named her clothing collection, 6126, after the birthdate of Marilyn Monroe, whom Lohan considers to be a role model, albeit an unfortunate one. Monroe suffered from deep, persistent depression, eventually overdosing on drugs in 1962. One can only hope and pray that Lohan will break that cycle and recover, proving to be an exception in this seemingly endless pattern of brilliant yet self-destructive female celebrities.
All these extraordinary women gave in to the brutal pressures and dark temptations of celebrity life and paid the ultimate price for their vulnerability as they fell into patterns of addiction and abuse. Only God can truly see the human heart, and one hesitates to cast judgment on another, but it’s safe to say that addiction is an insidious parasite that spares no one, devastating at times the most beautiful, promising, and successful talents among us.
Rest in peace, Amy Winehouse.
About Jennifer Grassman:
Singer, songwriter and pianist, Jennifer Grassman is an award-winning recording artist based in Houston, Texas. Subscribe by RSS feed and read more from Jennifer at www.JenniferGrassman.com. You can follow Jennifer on @JGrassman or Facebook.com/JenniferGrassmanMusic
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