Monday, July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse and Céline Dion: The Real Tragedy

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

I’m getting old, so most of the music on my iPod (yes, I ditched my Victrola a while back) is from the ’60s, ’70s, and even the ’80s – “back in my day.” But once in a while, a new talent comes along that catches my attention, and Amy Winehouse was one of those people

She was a talented singer/songwriter, had a fascinatingly dark, bluesy bent to her voice and her music, and was infinitely troubled, which is what appears often to drive great artists of any kind.
I was a fan, but I wasn’t obsessed, so I missed or ignored a lot of the paparazzi-type headlines about her antics, although I did catch the video of her pulling a vial of cocaine from her beehive during a performance and taking a couple of bumps as the crowd roared its approval (I have to admit that I thought it was kinda cool at the time, as well). I also ran into a story about her stumbling in the streets after dark in her underwear, and read a magazine interview during which she was not able to stay awake.

I saw skeletal photographs of her in various stages of recovery and relapse, and I, like many others, thought that she would probably die far before her time. I also saw respect turn to ridicule as Winehouse did everything but put out a new album – as if we were owed that simply because we liked her music.

At the time that I write this, the cause of Winehouse’s death has not been determined, but speculation runs rampant, and most speculators believe it was some type of accidental overdose – drugs, alcohol, or a combination thereof. As a speculator myself, I also believe that is no doubt the case.

Addiction is a difficult beast to tame, and people like to blame the addict for not being strong enough to overcome it. But there is more to battling addiction and winning than simply strength of will. Why some people are able to win the fight and others are not has as much to do with individual brain chemistry as it does with personal demons, neither of which is fully under our control.

Fighting such battles is difficult enough in private, but fighting them in the public eye, with hundreds of thousands either judging you, encouraging your addictions, or both, sometimes becomes impossible. And fame, money, and the love of diehard fans is nowhere near enough to have on your side.

I believe that we lost a true talent when Amy Winehouse died – someone who could have and probably would have gone on to contribute greatly to the musical world, and whose music would have mattered.
On the flip side, juxtaposed with headlines about Winehouse’s demise are headlines about Céline Dion getting her lawyers to shut down a website called “Ridiculous Pictures of Céline Dion,” which featured … well … exactly what it said.

For Amy Winehouse, “ridiculous pictures” pretty much describes the majority of her recent press coverage. Get over yourself, Céline. There are some things that are real tragedies, and “Ridiculous Pictures of Céline Dion” is not one of them.