On Sunday morning the news arrived – one of the most talented and original singer songwriters of our times was dead.
The news has been a long time coming: since her first album was released, Amy has lived her life in the public eye, and her self-destructive lifestyle was the subject of a great deal of gossip and media attention. Like many, I heard of her tawdry reputation long before I heard her music.
It was when writing my book in a Castlemaine cafe in February 2008 that I caught a few bars of chorus. I literally ran to the nearest record shop and – out of breath – said two words “Amy Winehouse”. The assistant wordlessly handed me a copy of “Back to Black” and it hasn’t left my daily playlist since.
I love her music – and wish that somehow she could have found the strength and support to battle her demons and fight her addictions. There was something about Amy that really got people’s goat. I don’t quite understand it, but you don’t need me to point out that she was on the receiving end of enormous amounts of venom.
Hard to believe, for a young woman who wanted nothing more than to write and sing her music, and live how she wished to live, however that was. She didn’t hurt anyone as far I know, but yet she was hounded. I can’t even begin to imagine how that felt, especially for one who was so sensitive – Amy lays out her heart and soul for us in her music. Almost every song includes the word “tears”, there’s so much anguish in there.
Amy and her music really touched me – I want to share my feelings with you about this amazing woman, but it’s a sad reality when I note that I’m inviting more vitriol, more of the Amy-haters to tell me how I’m wrong. Please, don’t. This is my blog and whilst I don’t expect you to agree with me, I’d appreciate it if you could treat me, and Amy, with respect.
So – onto the good stuff – you know about Amy, her life and her music but have you thought about her style? Miss Winehouse burst onto the scene with that rarest and most valuable of qualities – originality. Her look borrowed heavily from the early ’60s girl groups like The Ronettes with the heavily winged eyeliner, pale lips, big beehive bouffant hair but she made it her own with a modern update.
Her clothes were pure Bad Girl – some were a twist on the ’50s with pencil skirts, stilettos and ballet flats, wide cinching belts, cutoff denim shorts and strappy tops, or a ’60s mod look with Fred Perry knitted tops and jeans. Some were more ’70s or ’80s polyester, falling off one shoulder Flashdance style. She successfully updated vintage looks and made them look fresh and new. Her look was simple and sexy, a bit too wanton at times – revealing flesh despite the inclement English weather.
What was remarkable was how strong and consistent her style was – nowadays it’s common for singers to change their looks ala Madonna, in an effort to remain relevant but Amy had a Look and she stuck with it. It’s very recognisable and iconic – which makes it a very easy look to imitate, all you need is the big dark hairdo, the winged eyeliner, towering high heels and a skimpy outfit.
She was consistent because Amy was the real deal, authentic to the core. The genuine article in this world of fakes and manufactured pop stars.
So Amy had her Look and over at the world of fashion – which, let’s face it, is always looking for something new and exciting – they lapped it up.
Amy achieved something incredibly rare: she almost single-handedly dragged us out of the ’90s with our flat, straight Jennifer Aniston hair. Her fondness for big hair is still reverberating and will do so for some time. She is the reason I can wear my big ’40s rolls several inches above my head and receive compliments not “crazy lady” stares. She’s the reason many of us like to wear flowers in our hair.
Amy changed the way we look at make up too – not so long ago I had an argument with a MAC makeup lady who was convinced that like everyone else I needed pale pink lipstick (despite her determination I left with hot pink instead). Winged eyeliner has been seen on the cover of Vogue magazine and catwalks everywhere.
And lastly, Amy has had an impact on the acceptance of tattoos: especially amongst young women. She’s helped revive the ’50s styles of tattoos too.
Amy’s music and style will now stand alone, and no longer be overshadowed by her lifestyle. A true original, we will never see her like again. I hope she finds peace now.