Living with…Amy Winehouse…for a week
Following the revelation last week that hair was such a deciding factor in the music that I adopted, I came ready with further quips about a young lady who could be called the Princess Hair of the noughties. Amy Winehouse is as well known for her ‘over-the-top’ hairstyle and personal antics as she is for her music. And understandably…despite selling over ten million copies of Back to Black for many she has become the tabloid stories of her permanent morning after look that seems to follow on from a permanent night before.
Three years ago I played Back to Black in to the ground, as did many others I’m sure. Why? Back to it again, I realised that its her vulnerability that draws you in to this collection of songs as much as the beautiful sound and production. I’m sure. You believe in her anguish, questioning and self-doubt and the inner sadness that lies in many of the songs and that’s what draws you in – a mixture of empathy and voyeurism. Several times, during Rehab and Back to Black, I could imagine her settling in to a chair with a psychiatrist while some inner angst was poured out.
So it came as some surprise when I settled down (on my sofa) part way through the week to watch the videos of some of the classic singles which I’d never seen properly before. Two minutes in to Rehab, there is Amy Winehouse settling down in to a psychiatrist’s chair pouring forth her dilemna “They tried to make me go to Rehab. I said “No, no, no.” Much as that clicked with me , the videos also ruined the songs for me – they’re too smooth, too slick – burying her heart in a coffin in Back to Black is great drama, but this is over-engineered vulnerability…
From Thursday the news began to break of Aretha Franklin’s illness with pancreatic cancer. Here was a soul legend in trouble, and manufactured as I’m sure her career has been I felt drawn away from Amy’s music for the rest of the week. The Dap Kings, her backing band on Back to Black also provide the vintage soul sound for Sharon Jones and had laid on one of this year’s treats in the album I Learned the Hard Way. So I played out the week with Sharon and the band – that same glorious sound, but probably closer in sound and heritage to Aretha Franklin.
A few weeks ago, we also had a brush of sorts with Amy through seeing her god-daughter Dionne Bromfield perform with P at the LG Arena in Birmingham. When I say perform with, it was as part of the wonderful and inspiring Young Voices concert that evening – where thousands of children provide the sound accompanied by a full band and professional artists. Dionne was brilliant – she had a great voice and personality especially for a 14 year old, and the whole evening was tremendously uplifting.
Don’t get me wrong, Back to Black is an album of great moments, especially the first half – but I just know it too well almost…and so a whole week back was just that little too much!
We’ve also been playing music from Glee! in the house this week (including the Christmas album) and I will confess to enjoying it all! They cover Journey excellently but, BUT they murder Rehab…don’t go there. No no no.
Find out about my week with Aretha Franklin. Lady Soul classic.