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Amy Winehouse, R.I.P. – What Will Be Her Legacy?

Will Amy Winehouse be remembered for her music or her personal life? Will Amy Winehouse be remembered for her music or her personal life?

27. That’s just about the creepiest number there is for a troubled musician. This weekend, Amy Winehouse joined a shocking list of musical celebrities who died at age 27, including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, and Robert Johnson. The cause of Winehouse’s death is still unknown, but she was a publically demon-haunted figure who struggled desperately with drug addiction during her entire stay in the spotlight.

In recent years, Winehouse had gone from beloved popstar to tabloid catastrophe. The public’s interest in her music waned, but not the interest in her trainwreck of a life. It’s too bad. She was one of the few pop singers at the top of the heap who possessed real talent. She had an interesting, confident voice; she wrote her own songs; and she got by on something other than being a sex symbol.

Winehouse released just two albums - the first, Frank, in 2003, and the last, Back to Black, in 2007.  She had the potential to make many more hits, but ultimately there was nothing to pull her out of her destructive patterns.

Far from a one-hit wonder, Winehouse’s songs had genuine substance. She was an anomaly on the pop landscape. But what will be her legacy? Over the past couple of years, she’s mostly been the butt of a joke as she circled the drain. Now that she’s actually dead, some reverence is creeping back into the Amy Winehouse conversation.

Click to download the PDF of this article.Click to download the PDF of this article.But at the same time, her body of work, however strong, is pretty small. So what will win out through the course of pop culture history? Her public problems or her music?

The answer: probably both. In the cases of Cobain, Hendrix, Joplin, Jones, and Morrison, each artist is remembered for both their music and their death, true, but the talk of their death is a byproduct of their how dearly loved their music is. And although their death is a part of the conversation, their musical legacy outweighs the tale of their death.

But Winehouse isn’t quite the same. First of all, she spiraled very publically and for years was on the cover of supermarket gossip rags, which shaped the public’s perception of her in a way that never happened to the other members of the “27 Club.”

Second, although she was a singer/songwriter, she was a pop star. For better or worse, the public doesn’t take pop as seriously as rock n’ roll.

Time will tell what history makes of Amy Winehouse. For now, we remember the sad life and death of a tortured and talented soul. And hope that perhaps one more cautionary tale of celebrity tragedy can discourage the next would-be member of the 27 Club.

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One of Amy Winehouse's hits, and possibly a hint at the self-awareness of her problems.
Last modified on Friday, 03 August 2012 15:38

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