A few weeks ago I saw Asif Kapadia’s incredibly powerful film AMY, about, of course, the incomparable Amy Winehouse, and I felt compelled to write some words about it, so here you go:
The FRANK album was so incredible to me from the moment I heard it, and painted a picture to which I could completely relate. I couldn’t believe this woman even existed, who could capture pretty much everything I loved about music sonically, but was also SUCH an incredible lyricist; her words connected with me on a visceral level.
If you take a song like ‘Take the Box’ from the first album: “Your neighbours were screaming/ I don’t have a key for downstairs /So I punched all the buzzers hoping you wouldn’t be there” – her lyrics so immediately paint a picture. But the progression from that to the next big break-up song, ‘Back to Black’? “I tread a troubled track/ My odds are stacked/ I go back to black/ We only said goodbye with words”. Oh my goodness. She’s just one of my favourite writers of any kind, of all time, full stop.
And it’s weird, I never really processed her as a jazz singer until I realised she literally never sang a song the same way twice. Interpretation was all to her, and she was incredible at it, but she also had that knack to appeal to popular tastes. Then she transformed herself into an icon. God, who will ever be all these things again? I don’t know.
But the thing with Amy, that really REALLY pushed home to me watching the film was – how could someone who seemed so ordinary be simultaneously so incredibly extraordinary? Her humour, her eye rolling, bolshy personality… There’s always that feeling that she’s someone I knew (I’d see her around, I had very peripheral contact with people in her world), but also someone who could BE me… but then also someone who was completely outside of me with the uniqueness of her talents.
I remember my first reaction was surprise when I heard ‘Rehab’, thinking it was ironic, so I must have had some tangential knowledge of her struggles, but only in the most surface way, of course, and no idea how bad it was going to get. It was disturbing that, even when watching the film, with all it was presenting to us, the people next to me all turned to each other when an image of Amy striking out at a paparazzo came on screen and said “Oh, I remember that one”. Like paparazzi incidents and turmoil were all part of her greatest hits.
But hopefully her legacy will distil, until it becomes just her music, and her words.
Thank you, Amy