Amy Winehouse dies. So what?

July 24, 2011
1 min read

Gary Steel is obviously a heartless bastard.

Why all the fuss and bother about another avoidable, yet inevitable, and very stupid junkie/celebrity death?
All day I’ve been besieged with friends, and friends of friends (and Facebook friends) expressing their grief about the demise of poor, dear Amy.
Of course it’s sad, and maybe those close to her will have a lot of grieving to do. Or maybe they already did their grieving, when it became obvious that she was a living train-wreck, and that the probability of her untimely end was beyond question.
But why should I care? Let me count the ways I don’t care:
1) Artistically, Amy Winehouse will, at best, be a footnote. She had a distinctive voice that was at odds with her diminutive size. Big deal. What she did with that voice was eulogise the past, creating a ready-made composite of soul and jazz style tics that was merely a big gesture gimmick. While it could be argued that her music articulated something of the joy of her influences – which goes some way to explain her popularity with her peers who hadn’t experienced the eras she so shamelessly cribbed – she only made one album that was notable in any way. One album. And that album did nothing except wallow in nostalgia. It was a blip on the scanner, a novelty. Compare this to others from the ‘dead at 27 club’, like Hendrix (who gave the world multiple albums of still unmatched guitar greatness) or Janis Joplin (whose heroin death was a genuine tragedy, at a time when people were far less cogniscent of the impact of hard drugs).
2) Even on that album, both her behaviour, general persona, and even the songs – ‘Rehab’ being the crowning example – exemplified and celebrated the art of being wasted, the supposed coolness of addiction. While sympathetic to what was obviously a serious addiction – or perhaps an addictive personality – I’m more concerned for those many thousands who were consciously or subconsciously influenced by the singer’s promotional attitude. I’ve known junkies who were at least honest about their problems, and concerned that others should follow them down that dark tunnel of addiction. Winehouse clearly couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that. So, why would I give a rat’s ass about her?
3) Winehouse was a tragic personality with a tragic end, but she was no innocent. Why are so many crying over the inevitable end – an end that she brought on herself by failing to shoulder any responsibility for her plight – when there are genuine tragedies, like the gunning of innocent people in Oslo, playing out all around us.

No, I won’t be mourning Amy Winehouse, or giving it even another passing thought. There are more pressing concerns in life. Celebrity culture, you have a lot to answer for.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here


  1. Ha ha who cares about your intellectualized hatred? You already wasted precious minutes of your life writing a long article about someone you don’t care about. Ha ha, loser! And a death us a death, does one death really rank as more important than another? Get a life.

  2. Hey Gladness, you call that a LONG ARTICLE? Wow, you must have read a lot of books in your time. And why wouldn’t I write something discussing the sickness perpetuated by celebrity “culture”? Intellectualised? Hardly.

  3. Mr Steel, you are heartless!!!

    Anyone’s death is not to be taken lightly. Personally, I’m mourning all the lost output that will now never emerge, as I really liked her performance and/querkiness and musicality!

    Yep, she bought it on herself, no doubt. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

    PS, which Gazza you are (I always get The Steel and The Pearce confused)? 🙂

  4. Au contraire Gazza. I’m not sure if you’re pissted at the mis-directed outpouring of emotion by fans or the kind of artist Winehouse was. Yes, you are right at every turn, she tapped into an already appealing and established genre – Motown and for whatever reason couldn’t/wouldn’t get her shit together. However you’ve been around long enough to know how the machine works, its appeal and the sausage factory turning out fodder to feed the very willing masses. Winehouse made her own choices but in the end it was the machine that ate her up and promptly spat her out.

  5. I’m glad I am not the only one who didn’t give a shit when I heard about this earlier today. Of course it’s sad for anyone to die, but she didn’t HAVE to put all that shit inside her body. And did she change the world with her music? Did she change the world of music with her music? She may have had a couple of catchy tunes but no, she didn’t change anything for me. RIP and all that, but I won’t be scurrying out to purchase any of her albums.
    Nice one, Gary.

  6. This seems a bit long for what you’re trying to say. Allow me to paraphrase.

    “Don’t expect me to shed a tear for that over-rated dead junkie bitch Winehouse, because I lack the imagination or compassion to spend one second considering the difficulty of struggling with addiction while being simultaneously hit with the wrecking-ball of media attention at the tender age of 20.”

    I wonder if, at 21, you were writing anything that approached the frank self-analysis and imagery of Tears Dry On Their Own, let alone setting it to music. No? Didn’t think so. Nobody expects you to send flowers, but you could just try not to be a total jerk about the premature death of a talented, troubled young woman.

  7. Frankie, you can find the Witchdoctor personnel bios in ‘About Us’ above. I am the Steel Gazza; the other one, Mr Pearce, is a specialist in all things hi-fi, etc.

  8. “Don’t expect me to shed a tear for that over-rated dead junkie bitch Winehouse, because I lack the imagination or compassion to spend one second considering the difficulty of struggling with addiction while being simultaneously hit with the wrecking-ball of media attention at the tender age of 20.”
    Oh fuck off!

  9. I thought it was just me who was perplexed by this mass hysterical grief over the death of a clever yet hardly revolutionary artist. Sad yes, tragic yes, inevitable yes but worthy? probably not.

  10. Couldn’t agree more Gazza. One decent album of retro 60’s soul and a catalogue of over publicised self abuse shouldn’t warrant the overwhelming media hysteria bestowed on her. Elvis, MJ, yes. Winehouse? No.

  11. Amy’s first album Frank was bypassed when first released and seems to have been forgotten today. Have a listen.
    I find it wholly more satisfying than BTB.

  12. Ironic that Amy actually died of Alcohol withdrawal symptoms and not from a over dose, she went to the doctor feeling sick from trying to go cold turkey, Amy was given a all clear the day before her body shut down.

    Very sad that another talented musician dies at a young age regardless of their personal problems with alcohol and drug use.
    From our history both of these vices have been musicians & actors biggest down falls and hurdles in life.
    The fame the fortune makes it all to easy to lead young people towards a lifestyle of partying & addictions, setting some up for a roller coaster road of self destruction.

    It is very easy for people to knock some one for there destructive life style ( Tall poppy syndrome) but you also have to give credit and appreciate the artist for their passion and musical creativity.

    RIP Amy.

  13. This is the best piece on Wino I’ve read.

    Kudos Mr Steel !

    Now if only the current bunch of no-talent caterwaulers would follow suit.

  14. What the fuck has Gary steel ever done for anyone ? I bet the fat fuck sits around in cafes with his nz on air pals fantasizing about being in the kings of leon


  15. I know it’s been ages since her death, and Gary’s writing is old, but I was just in a shop and ‘Valerie’ came on by Amy W. Some guy walked passed me singing along with the chorus… And then I stopped and listened. Oh yeah, it’s Amy Wino.
    Then I thought to myself: “why don’t pop stars sing straight notes anymore? Why do they have to use such ridiculous amounts of over retro scale-tickling vocal masturbation all the time instead of just singing the great melody which lies behind it? Why is Wino ruining her own vocals?”
    Then I realised: “oh yeah, they’re not her vocals. This is a cover. She’s ruining SOMEONE ELSE’S song.”
    Then I thought: “what the hell was all the hype for???” Her most popular song wasn’t even hers! And it’s not even as good as the original! (I’m not a Zutons fan btw)

    So I typed in a search for “winehouse what was all the fuss about?” And found mostly articles sobbing about our loss and blah blah blah. Nothing objective or anything other than mindless bandwagoning. And then I found Gary’s article.
    Thanks Gary. You confirmed my suspicions. It was just a bunch of misguided media hype and nothing more. I blame X-Factor and it’s current generation of talentless, plagiaristic, fame-hungry muppets.

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