Soul Singer and Rock Star Amy Winehouse has passed away. Although she was only 27, she made an indelible impression on the world of music amidst her short lived career. Her debut CD “Frank” virtually went unnoticed initially in the United States, but by the time it hit the streets of London back in 2003, she was already a well known performer in the UK community. Her 2006 release, “Back to Black,” put her on the proverbial map and earned her six Grammy nominations that resulted in five wins.
It seemed as if Amy was on her way! Songs of Amy’s that brought the Funk were jams like “Addicted,” “Back to Black,” “Me & Mr. Jones,” “You Know I’m No Good,” “You Sent Me Flying” and “Stronger Than Me.” Winehouse was just a child of FUNK! She brought a latter day hippie-goth kinda vibe, she had flavor – just DOPE! In the midst of all her recognition and success, it was well known that she had problems with alcohol and substance abuse. She even documented her addiction via her FUNK-iest hit “Rehab.” Despite her own realization and pleas from family, friends and record label executives to rectify the use of her vices, Winehouse continued to live life on the edge, from the outside looking in. At this point, there has been no “official” statement as to the cause of her death, but complications due to drug use are looming. If that’s the unfortunate truth, she would be among several “Rock Stars” who met with an untimely demise, that preceded hers. Among musical and pop-cultural icons that society and music enthusiasts grew to love, also taken away from this world due to an excessive use and/ or abuse of controlled and/ or medicinal substances (accidentally or self-inflicted) are: Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, Chet Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Ted Demme, Tommy Dorsey, Judy Garland, Phyllis Hyman, Billie Holiday, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Bruce Lee, Heath Ledger, Gerald Levert, Keith Moon, Freddie Prinze, David Ruffin, Ike Turner and Dinah Washington — just to name a few. Although a heart attack is associated with the actual death of FUNK-n-Roll star Rick James, it was reported that the drugs in his system undoubtedly contributed to his vital organs failing him at the age of 56. James even at one point is said to have self-proclaimed himself, to be an “icon of drug use and eroticism.”
The spirits of the truly talented are extremely sensitive. While the deaths of so many gifted entertainers costs them their lives, there’s aspects of their behavior and addiction I genuinely feel may have been beyond their control. So many people are sad about the loss of these dynamic people that we loved, yet it was our adoration and glorification of their presence that in some ways attributed to their short life span. By no means am I saying we’re to blame, but in their heart and minds, they felt certain substances were vital to maintain a certain aspect of themselves – an image – that their friends and fans grew to love.
In the wake of Amy’s death, I simply can’t help but be reminded of the multitude of “Blue-Eyed Soul” artists that are and/ or have made FUNKY and/ or Soulful/ Blues contributions to the world of music. Although these extraordinary talents are not black, their love and inspiration of Black music is undeniable, and most of them have gladly been very verbal about it. Several of Winehouse’s tracks were produced by Salaam Remi, who has also worked with Jazmine Sullivan, Nelly Furtado, Shabba Ranks, The Fugees and Whitney Houston. Read an entire interview with Remi @ http://globalgrind.com/music/soulful-conflicted-unmatchable-amy-winehouse-producer-salaam-remi-speaks-kim-kane Teena Marie was noted to even refer to herself as a black woman; Diana Krall always talks about how Nat “King” Cole is her greatest musical influence; and The Rolling Stones even took their name from a Muddy Waters song.
Nowadays we have the music of Lady Gaga, who is without question a “Pop Star,” however the genius behind the scenes of her presence and sound, are due to Rap Star Akon and Executive Producer Vincent Herbert. Herbert has been producing music since the mid-eighties, and has worked with the likes of musical talents such as Al B. Sure, Toni Braxton, Babyface, Freddie Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Keith Washington, The Winans, Deborah Cox, Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Montell Jordan, Lalo Schifrin, Monifah, Dream, IMx and JoJo. Married to Tamar Braxton, in the midst of GaGa success, his presence has been and remains humble. Adele is another talent today that obviously embraces Black music, which is evident in her latest hit “Rolling in the Deep,” that’s steeped in Gospel; and The Black Keys have essentially revived the Blues with their CD “Brothers.”
Other Blue-Eyed Soul artists that have emerged over the years include: Len Barry; Billy Joel; Bobby Caldwell; Dr. John; Hall & Oates; Kenny Loggins; Laura Nyro; The Doobie Brothers and Michael McDonald; The Osmonds; The O’Kaysions; The Righteous Brothers; The Rascals; Steely Dan; Three Dog Night; Boz Scaggs; Wild Cherry; Esthero; Jane Child; Gino Vanelli; Sia; Herbie Mann; Robyn; Robin Thicke; Fiona Apple; Christina Aguilera; Justin Timberlake (ala Timbaland); (BRITS) Led Zeppelin; Toto; The Animals; The Bee Gees; Eric Burdon (WAR); George Michael; Boy George; Average White Band; Rick Astley; Joe Cocker; Elton John; Joss Stone; Duffy; Annie Lennox; Lulu; Steve Winwood; Sheena Easton; Peter Gabriel; The Human League; Natasha Bedingfield; The Beatles; The Police (Sting); James & Van Morrison; Robert Palmer; Simply Red; Dusty Springfield; Lisa Stansfield; Rod Stewart; newcomer Jessie J. and ol’ school performer Tom Jones.
In closing, I simply want to say Rest In Peace Amy, the dark days are over…