Friday, January 11, 2013

Remembering Amy

book review

Book: Amy, My Daughter 
Author: Mitch Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s rise and fall were both meteoric, and both unfurled in public view. The British singer who saw international fame after the release of her album Back to Black (2006) became a tabloid fixture because of her personal ups and downs. Between her rise to fame and her untimely sudden death in July 2011 at the age of 27, things like her marriage to and subsequent divorce from Blake Fielder-Civil, struggle with drugs, and uneven live performances became constant gossip column fodder.

Now, in a tome released a year after her death, her father Mitch Winehouse shares memories of his daughter in his book Amy, My Daughter. The book - the author’s proceeds of which go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which aims to “help children and young adults facing difficulty and adversity in their lives” - offers an account of Amy’s life from birth to death, and all that came in between.

We follow Amy’s journey as she deals with her parents’ divorce, struggles through school, and finds her way to a music career. Mitch describes her as a strong willed, attention seeking, wild spirit, who “always had to go one step further than anyone else”, and shares incidents from the time they spent with each other. He also sheds light on how her albums came together, and how her songs were shaped by her own life when she wrote from experience. ‘Rehab’ actually recounts a real incident; her relationship with journalist Chris Taylor formed the basis of her debut album Frank; and her relationship with Blake became the basis of Back to Black, or as the author puts it “one of the biggest-selling UK albums of the twenty-first century so far is all about the biggest low-life scumbag that God ever put breath into”. Yes, Mitch Winehouse’s issues with the Fielder-Civil clan often come to the forefront many times in the book. They’re not nice at all, he thinks, and he really, really wants you to know that.

By the second half of the book, the tedium of addiction has set in. It’s monotonous. It’s frustrating. But apparently so is addiction. “It seemed that we were going round in circles,” he writes. “When Amy wasn’t high, she wanted to get clean. Then she would get high and forget she wanted to get clean.” The people around her are subjected to a rollercoaster ride when Amy falls into the cycle of relapse and recovery as she struggles to give up drugs and alcohol, while her family and friends try to figure out how to deal with an addict.

Mitch Winehouse talks about trying to support his daughter, what it was like when she was falling apart, and the efforts he made over the years to help her. While it may be about Amy, the book, in fact, isn’t so much an account of what it was like to be Amy Winehouse, but a reflection of what it was like to be her father. And yes, the material might be skewed - it is, after all, only one side of the story written by someone who clearly loved the person at its centre - but still no one comes out looking particularly good. Also, it doesn’t explore Amy’s early life and upbringing as much as it could have, it gets repetitive, and it doesn’t offer deep insights into what caused her behaviour and why she was so attracted to the people and things that ultimately caused her problems. Still, Amy, My Daughter is a sad and heartbreaking account of a talented but troubled artist, as seen through her father’s eyes, that gives us an intimate look at the singer as well as the cruel cycle of addiction. It’s a book that Amy’s fans, in particular, will appreciate, although it won’t be a very good idea to rely solely on this text if you want a deeper understanding and analysis of her choices and behaviour.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 11th January, 2013

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