I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of Amy Winehouse in a personal way. I have her album 'Back to Black' which I think is superb. She has a strong, sultry voice which delights my ears in the same way that a cup of dark Costa Rican coffee warms my throat. I don't want it all the time, but when I do, I know my senses will be stimulated. But however much I love her voice, I would have never paid to see her perform as the press gleefully reported on Amy no-shows or an Amy so drunk she could not remember her words....or even pretend to remember them.
And therein lies the problem. Because Amy had so much press coverage I felt I knew her. She was depicted as an out of control young woman who was constantly drunk or drugged up. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn't - I don't know. And to be honest, it's none of my business. Amy's death has provoked all sorts of people to voice their feelings on her demise - and usually in a rather smug way. Facebook is full of venom about how she 'brought it on herself' and 'deserved' an early death.
I remember several years ago the same was said of Paula Yates. The media storm surrounding her death was incredible and I felt moved to write a letter to the Independent newspaper stating that compassion was required. No, I didn't know Paula Yates, either - I'm not part of the rock crowd, just a middle-aged mum who works a normal nine to five. Funnily enough, though, I did meet Paula in my teens when the Boomtown Rats were fairly big and she attended Tiffin Boys School Summer Fete in Kingston upon Thames along with boyfriend Bob Geldoff, Pete Briquette (my heart-throb at the time) and Johnnie Fingers (he'd ditched the pyjamas and was in normal attire as they were there as normal people, not celebrities).
Paula Yates wasn't famous at that time and as I was the gobbiest of my two friends, I walked up to Mr Geldoff and asked him for his autograph (I still have my Tiffin School fete programme to this day!). He graciously obliged as did Johnnie and Pete (swoon). Paula drifted into the background and sat on a wall, observing the scene as hoards of teenagers attacked the threesome armed with pens and programmes. Paula looked like a normal girl out at a local fete and to be honest, she looked ticked off. I had scuppered their plans of enjoying a nice afternoon out and now her boyfriend and gang were having to sign autographs when they obviously had been out incognito (otherwise I'm sure that Johnnie would've worn his pyjamas). Yes, she looked a bit menacing - but that's how we all wanted to look being Punk and New Wave fans.
I didn't know Paula Yates and I didn't know Amy Winehouse. But through today's intrusive press coverage and the general public clamouring for information about the famous, watching the demise of talented people has become a circus show. As the Victorians used to take tours around lunatic asylums, so today the masses want to see fallen 'celebrities' on the front of their tabloids so they can sit and gloat, smug in the knowledge that they 'brought it upon themselves'.
This aspect of human nature both sickens and saddens me. The mind is a fragile organ and sometimes it breaks or becomes weary. I myself am not an alcoholic, nor do I take non prescription drugs - the idea of losing total control scares me. So I have absolutely no idea what it must feel like to be held in the grips of addiction. Maybe Amy was using drugs and alcohol as a means of escape or perhaps it was supposed to be a fun time gone wrong. Who knows? And that's exactly the point. Who is qualified to judge?
As in the case of Paula Yates, I think that Amy Winehouse's death should be treated with compassion. I hope that I never have to beat an addiction, but if I do, I would hope that people want me to succeed and not gleefully watch me fall.
NB - For all the smugs out there - the results aren't in from toxicology yet as to the cause of death.