While the singer sought oblivion from heartache in alcohol and drugs, I sought it in her.
That big bouffant, those bold tattoos, the strapless 60's sheaths and deep, soulful voice. Amy Winehouse, despite her tortured soul, let the world know through her music that it was okay to be yourself. Even if you were vulnerable, desperately wanting of love and a little bit of a mess. Even if you were battling a broken heart. Amy Winehouse Found Dead At 27: Was A Broken Heart To Blame?
I didn't know Amy, but I loved her for the artist she was and for the life and creativity she injected into a ho-hum music scene. As a music lover and recreational singer, nothing brought me greater joy than to listen to Amy's music and sing her songs. After my initial love affair with "Back to Black," an album that has held court in my disc rotation for over four years, I special ordered her first album, "Frank," which had yet to be released in the U.S. When it arrived, it felt like I'd been given the rarest of jewels. I was a law student, but my heart wasn't in my studies. It was in the clouds, wrapped up in a romance with a classmate that, only a year earlier, had started as a fairytale but was breaking at the seams. It was a classic case of codependent, unrequited love on my part. It was during the worst of those times when I needed Amy the most, and she was there. Complete This Sentence: My Favorite Amy Winehouse Love Song Is...
When my boyfriend nonchalantly phoned me from a semester abroad (in Amy's London, no less) to tell me he didn't love me anymore, my heart broke into tiny pieces. The idea of a happy life together surrounded by a white-picketed fence dissipated in an instant. ("We only said goodbye with words, I died a hundred times ...") I had done everything humanly possible to keep our relationship together, because I loved him and, at that time, our relationship was all I had. I had forgotten myself. My interests had been replaced by constant studying and a need to hang on to someone who provided me with a temporary identity as a loving girlfriend. I wasn't singing anymore because I had no voice. I didn't know who I was outside of that relationship. And then, it was gone.
So, I found refuge in Amy's music. If I woke up in the morning and felt as if I might not make it through the day, I listened to "Wake Up Alone" and I knew that I wasn't the only one who didn't know what to do with herself. At night when I couldn't sleep, I listened to "Love is a Losing Game" and knew that there was someone else in this world who felt loss and defeat as deeply as I did. Her musical expression, her one-of-a-kind instrument, somehow made it all bearable.
While Amy sought oblivion from heartache in alcohol and drugs, I sought it in her. She was my escape and my friend who would always understand. She reminded me that there was still "No Greater Love" than my love of music. Suddenly, I was singing again.
Around the time that "Back to Black" was released, Amy became a caricature in the media. Her wild partying ways spawned a website devoted to predicting her untimely death. Here was a woman in need of help. But as Amy herself so honestly sang, "I can’t help you, if you won't help yourself."
Indeed, Amy's addictions got the best of her. But what many of these "news" sources have neglected to highlight is the fact that Amy was more than someone with a drug and alcohol problem. She was a Grammy winning musician who broke records. She was a musical genius beyond her years who changed the landscape of soul music and opened the playing field for women in the industry. It was Amy who burst onto the scene like a thief in the night, paving the wave for British soul artists like Duffy and Adele. It was Amy who had the courage to get up there and to do something that no one else was doing. And it was Amy who ignited a fire in my soul, a sparkle which I thought would never burn again after my own life and heart had become undone.
I grew deaf to the media circus surrounding Amy. I wanted so desperately to believe that she would make a comeback that I refused to indulge in any tabloid reports exploiting the side effects of her disease. When reports emerged that she had been booed off stage in Serbia, my heart sank. Did she know how much her fans really loved her? Did she know that we would welcome her back with open arms? Did she know how much she mattered?
Reports have suggested that in the weeks leading up to her death, Amy was brokenhearted after the demise of her relationship with on-again-off-again boyfriend Reg Traviss. Other sources say that Amy felt the only person who could save her was her ex-husband, the man who purportedly kick-started her drug addiction. Amy often admitted that she was first and foremost looking for love. She said she wanted to be a wife and mother over anything else, including the spectacular musician that she was.
But in her search for a soul to connect with, did she know how many fans were looking for the same thing? How many of us found our solace in a connection with her? If I were to see Amy today, I would give her a hug and thank her. I would tell her that her fragile soul, sarcastic humor and unparalleled heartfelt vocals nursed me through a difficult time.
And I'd tell her that her broken heart, which she so openly shared with the world, had saved my own.