David Lister: If you really want to pay tribute to Amy Winehouse, give the profits to charity

The Week in Arts


So, there is to be a posthumous Amy Winehouse album.

There's a surprise. Some tracks that she has recorded have been discovered by her family, and guess what – the planned title for the album is Lioness: Hidden Treasures. There's another surprise.

It's funny how that tends to happen with dead rock stars. There's always unrecorded material; they always turn out to be "treasures", but how many people can remember a single track from posthumous John Lennon or Michael Jackson material?

And that is not to show any disrespect at all to the hugely talented Amy Winehouse, her family who want her legacy to be enriched, or her record company, Island, which is giving £1 from every sale of the new album to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, the charity set up in her name to help young people suffering from addiction, among other things. In the case of Island Records, mind, I am a little puzzled. If there was great Winehouse material recorded, then surely the record company would have released it in the long gap since her last album.

Of course, we need to hear the album. If it turns out to be great, then it will have been a worthwhile exercise, and it will allay any suspicions that music fans might have. The music critics who have heard it are ambivalent, saying the tracks do sound rather like first takes of songs. And a record company executive was quoted as saying: "Whether you can hear every lyric on every song or not, you can always hear the emotion there." Ah. Being able to hear the lyrics vs emotion. I know where I stand on that one ... cold, unemotional person that I am.

There will be suspicions among fans because posthumous albums that are speedily released always give rise to suspicions among fans. They fear they might be being taken for a ride, and that profit might, just might, be one of the aims, and might weigh against the enduring legacy of their heroes.

The record company, and all involved, could allay those fears through one very simple solution. Instead of giving £1 from every sale to charity, why not give all the money from the sales of the album to charity? After all, this album is to celebrate Amy, and to remember her tragic death by preventing others from following a similar course. The charity set up in her name aims to do that. It deserves all the money it can get.

So, why just £1? As the dual motives in releasing the unrecorded tracks are to give us unheard Amy Winehouse music and to help the charity, then both are richly achieved by releasing the album and giving all the proceeds, every penny, to the charity. It would certainly be one in the eye for those wretched cynics who believe that posthumous albums are more about profit than legacy.

Make Mark Rylance the RSC's next boss

Who will be the next head of the Royal Shakespeare Company? Michael Boyd is stepping down after an excellent tenure. Now the search is on for a successor. Since Sir Peter Hall founded the RSC, it has been run by directors. Perhaps it is time for an actor to take the helm. And who better than one of the greatest actors of his or any generation, Mark Rylance, currently winning another set of plaudits for Jerusalem in the West End? Rylance was the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London and ran it with huge success. He would seem to be the ideal candidate.

There is, it has to be said, one tiny snag. Mark doesn't actually believe that Shakespeare wrote all his plays. Tricky one, that. Can you have a chief of the Royal Shakespeare Company who doubts that Shakespeare was written by Shakespeare? On the other hand, Shakespeare was also in the title of Shakespeare's Globe, and that didn't stop Rylance from making it globally admired and staging wonderful productions of the plays. So, RSC board, ignore that awkward little snag, and appoint Rylance.

The power of Twitter to steal some of the magic

As the final episode of this series of Downton Abbey approaches, I shall be checking the tweets of Captain Matthew Crawley. OK, Captain Crawley isn't actually on Twitter, but his alter ego, the fine actor Dan Stevens, is, and I follow his utterings. They have led me to muse on actors tweeting and on my own need for a suspension of disbelief. You see, Dan tweets quite a bit about Downton, and sometimes about his character, Matthew. He recently made a joke about Matthew's war-inflicted disability, which, of course, in the drama is no laughing matter but a tear-jerker.

So does it matter? This is not the character tweeting; it is an actor. Yet weirdly I feel uncomfortable with it. I don't want the actor to come out of character and make a joke about said character. Somehow, it adds a barrier between character and viewer, and destroys an element of the magic. Call me old-fashioned.

d.lister@independent.co.uk / twitter.com/davidlister1

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