Tearful fans pay homage to Winehouse
For devotees at the singer's home, the circumstances of her death were a salutary lesson. By Rob Sharp and Katie Binns
Rob Sharp is a freelance journalist specialising in arts and culture. He was on staff at The Independent from July 2007 to December 2011, first as a features writer, and then as the paper’s arts correspondent. He has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. For more information visit his website, www.robsharp.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday 25 July 2011
The tributes laid along the police cordon outside her house included offerings of vodka, wine, cigarettes and a broken guitar. "I didn't sleep last night," wailed Matthew Rile, 32, an unemployed man from Deptford with a large Amy Winehouse tattoo on his calf.
A day after the singer's sudden death at the age of 27, large crowds remained outside her house – a mixture of friends, passers-by, devoted fans who had travelled from around the country and as far away as Turkey, and a smattering of tourists.
"I am not a fan – I'm more of a cultural-sociological tourist," said Jennifer White, 31, visiting from Brighton. "I am here for the spectacle of it all. It's obscene but it's what we do, isn't it? I am sure she will be remembered as a mythical genius that we were deprived of too soon."
In recent months Winehouse's public appearances, in which she was clearly struggling with her addictions, have been greeted with boos, but yesterday, fans struggled to hold back tears. Pamela Mackay, 28, a student from Tunbridge Wells, said: "I have come to London today with my husband to pay my respects. Her music touched me. She was fragile and that was reflected in her lyrics. She showed her insecurities and I really identified with her because of that."
Brandon Haywald, 16, from London, broke down as he spoke of the singer's death. "I can't believe it," he said. "I was 12 when I went to see her live – it was the first gig I ever went to.
"This has destroyed me, killed me. I am grieving. I couldn't sleep last night. Her contribution to music was amazing. She had her demons and now she is gone. What kills me the most is the music we will never hear."
There were heartfelt tributes from around the world of music: recognition of a unique songwriting and singing talent that had offered much more than the five Grammys and two albums she delivered; and acknowledgement of how she inspired so many young female British artists.
The platitudes, at the scene and on rolling news, also ran thick; the supposed inevitability of her demise at a young age, her tortured soul, how she had joined the tragic "27 club" – the list of noted musicians who have died at that age: Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones...
As her records re-entered the charts and began to rise, several friends and health experts spoke out against the idea that Winehouse had been destined to die young, despite her myriad health problems.
The actor and broadcaster Russell Brand urged drug addicts to seek help. He said: "Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised at 27 years old."
Professor David Nutt, the former chairman of the government's Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs, said: "The stress of being that famous must be remarkable. Many people in their mid-20s begin to pull themselves together and get out of drug-use. For others, 10 years of hammering their heart takes its toll."
He added: "The media like to jump on the back of celebrities, especially those with a large following who like to take drugs. Maybe we should have a more balanced view towards our entertainers."
Caroline Stadler, from Vienna, said: "I thought I would show my 12-year-old-daughter that drink and drugs is not the way to go."
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