Amy Winehouse: A tragic life and early death (Image slideshow)

Amy Winehouse was a major talent that burned out too quickly in a blaze of drugs, alcohol and eating disorders. The young songstress dies at the age of 27. Photo: Associated Press

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fl JULY 25, 2011—When authorities announced they found 27-year-old Amy Winehouse (b. 9/14/83-d. 7/23/11) dead at her home on Saturday, there was a sense of sadness with many fans, family and friends offering mournful sound bites. But in reality few were surprised. 

The immensely talented Ms. Winehouse seemed intent on self-destruction, and has been on a path leading to her death for some time.  She joins the macabre “27 Club” whose members include other young larger-than-life talents that also died at the age of 27: Jimi Hendrix (b.11/27/42-d.8/18/70), Jim Morrison (b.12/8/43-d/7/3/71), Brian Jones (b.2/28/42-d.7/3/69), Kurt Cobain (b.2/20/67-d.4/5/94) and Janis Joplin (b.1/19/43-d.10/4/70). 

Born to a taxi driver father and a pharmacist mother, Amy Winehouse grew up in suburban London, where even at a young age she seemed determined to find fame.  When she was 10, she and a friend started a signing duo which she described as “A Jewish Salt-and-Peppa.”

Amy Winehouse performs at the Eurockéennes of 2007 (Wiki Commons by Bojars)

Amy Winehouse performs at the Eurockéennes of 2007 (Wiki Commons by Bojars)

When success hit with the critically acclaimed “Frank” (2003) it hit hard. The then twenty-year-old’s smoky, sultry voice wrapped her emotional lyrics into a perfect present for her fans.  Her beehive hair-do, heavy cat-lined eyes and 1960s-like sailor tattoos helped her gain notoriety, but her real distinction was the voice and the songs. 

Her first album, “Frank” garnered Ms. Winehouse an Igor Novello songwriter award and the Mercury Music Prize, awarded for the best album releases in the UK and Ireland in a given year.  Winehouse’s sophomore release, Back to Black (2006) positioned the young songstress as a star in the U.S. as Ms. Winehouse became the first British female to win five Grammys, and all in the same year. 

She was, by all accounts, a star. A suddenly bigger than life, rocketing star.

Many people pray for fame and fortune, and Amy Winehouse had both in spades.  In the end, however, it wasn’t enough to save her.

Throughout her life, Amy Winehouse struggled with addiction and mental illness.  Her erratic behavior overshadowed her music with her drunken brawls and strange behavior receiving far more attention than her talent.  Amy once told a newspaper a psychiatrist diagnosed her as manic-depressive, saying she refused to take the medicine or accept help.

She was in and out of rehabilitation clinics, writing the popular song “Rehab” about the experience. The Sun UK published a picture of her smoking crack, taken from a video that made the You Tube rounds. 

Earlier this year, her parents announced that she had early stages of emphysema due to her heavy smoking of both cigarettes and drugs.  Her father, Mitch Winehouse, wrote Amy’s obituary in 2007 saying “I know newspapers have obituaries ready for people. Well, I’d written one. The doctors told us even a whiff of another drug could kill her.”

Authorities also investigated Ms. Winehouse for assault on several occasions, although they warned her without charging her. She also admitted to struggling with an eating disorder. 

All this eventually took its toll.  Pictures of Amy Winehouse over the years show her precariously thin and looking unhealthy, with scabs on her face and arms.  She sometimes had a vacant look and seemed unfocused. 

Amy Winehouse had demons.  She chose to sedate them with drugs and alcohol rather than to confront them or to seek treatment to, maybe, banish them.  Considering the tremendous mental and emotional pain she apparently suffered, it makes sense that she was incapable of addressing those issues herself. 

Which leaves us asking how do you help someone who refuses it?  The short answer is you can’t.

Instead of accepting the help her family, friends and business associates offered, Amy Winehouse chose to live tragically.  She careened through life, reaching amazing highs in her music that were unable to fill whatever lay empty inside her.  Her plummets to terrible emotional lows meant seeking respite, from drugs and alcohol, in an effort to numb the negative feelings she had. 

The true sadness of Amy Winehouse is not her death, but her life.  She was blessed with bountiful gifts, but cursed with horrible pain.  Unfortunately, her untimely death is the logical conclusion of her difficult life. 

With Amy Winehouse’s death, the world lost a huge musical talent.  Her parents lost a child, friends lost a companion, and fans lost their star.

But the saddest part of all is that somewhere along the line, well before her predictable death, Amy Winehouse lost herself.

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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

Contact Lisa M. Ruth


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