(Text in greek)
Let there be silence.
The song “I got a woman” by Ray Charles is considered to be the cornerstone of soul music. Borrowing elements from the pop enthusiasm of the Afro-American rhythm ‘n’ blues and from the ecstatic gospel music, composes a rogue, casual, catchy song for a woman who feeds, pampers and obeys the scapegrace, adventurer hero of the lyrics. It was written in 1954. Fifty two years later, Amy Winehouse gave women the right in “vagrancy” and made her cuckold husband accept the humiliation with a simple “You know that I’m no good”. In the begging of the new millennium, soul music was an old-fashioned music style. And suddenly, a common girl who had the style of a bored hairdresser, made it in fashion again, changing some of its fundamental characteristics. There were many people who played neo soul. But it was “Back to Black”, Amy’s second album that made this kind of music known all over the world. Exactly like Nirvana: many other people played grunge music first – and better than Nirvana – but it was Cobain and his friends who managed to become a symbol. The reasons were more or less the same for both Nirvana and Winehouse. Unpretentious style, songs written on the verve that abuses create (just before the red line from which there is no
return), the thirst of the audience for something new and the need of an entire country to be again the first in a music kind; in Winehouse’s case it was UK. Winehouse converted a separation’s drama (she lived it more intensely because of the drugs) into great music and her top producer Mark Ronson, fixed it as much as it needed so it would addict everybody to it.
However, such albums are only written once. It’s the “momentum”, the circumstances, the appropriate dose of alcohol and crack. Nirvana had the time to release one more album before Cobain’s suicide but it was not as good as “Nevermind”. If Winehouse stopped drugs and alcohol, she would then make a boring career. It’s a cynical ascertainment but it’s true. And the fact that she died at 27, at the same age with Cobain, is a coincidence that made her a legend much more easily than ten more amazing songs.
A common girl who had the style of a bored hairdresser made it in fashion again, changing some of its fundamental characteristics. She adjusted the microphone, coyly bit her lips, lowered her glance and then stood motionless and started singing, almost a cappella, the song “Love is a losing game”; a little girl under tens of tattoos and her bushy coiffure, with the eyeliner almost touching her hair roots. It is 2007 and her second album “Back to Black”, an elegy to love and addiction, has already released before about one year, has sold 10 million copies (in a period with dramatic decline in sales), has been apotheosized by all the critics and it’s nominated for the British award Mercury. Though, it’s almost impossible that Amy takes the award; her stormy life is already under the microscope of the press and her own parents have requested people to stop buying her albums and giving her awards because in this way they finance her self-destructive lifestyle. Besides, many people have predicted that Amy Winehouse, the most sensational jazz soul voice of the last years, the singer who is compared to Billy Holiday and Nina Simone, will not manage to go to the ceremony.
However, she went and sang almost a cappella the song “Love is a losing game”. The audience immersed in the absolute silence. It’s one of the few performances that Amy seems sober, healthy and worthy of her majestic talent. Unfortunately, her sad performances on internet, which don’t represent her talent at all, are the mostly viewed.
What eventually killed Amy Winehouse? And why while everybody prejudiced her tragic end, especially during the period after the cancellation of her last tour, which included Greece as well, and her lamentable performance in Belgrade, was flabbergasted from her early death? Journalists who deified her seemed to be more interested in her tragedy than her talent; all these years, so much ink spent, was used to describe her drama and not her charisma. But it was not the publicity that killed her. "I write songs because I need to get something good out of something bad. I think ‘damn, I’m going to die if I don’t write what I’m feeling".
When I saw her on the stage.
It seems weird today, in the shadow of her death and after several years of devastating performances that have filled YouTube, but there was a time that Amy Winehouse sang normally live. A short time, unfortunately, but there was. Such a live I attended on the last day of June 2007, at the big Belgian festival ‘Rock Werchter’. Amy appeared on the stage at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, under the hot sun. Remember, it was the time before her public abuses, before her repeated drunk live concerts and of course, before the Grammy triumph. On that day, Amy was just the humble, 6th name on the poster. Incredible, isn’t it? Well, her concert was even more incredible. It was not because I was crazy for her music, but because, as things stand today, I’m watching some videos from that afternoon and I’m waiting for her to forget the lyrics, to start murmuring the lyrics of “Back to Black”, to saunter on the stage like lost in the space, to break her divine voice in thousand pieces… But nothing of these happens; the video shows exactly the Amy of 2007 that I had engraved in my mind. That is, at least, a live concert with style and unique characteristics. She plays the role of a detached, boredly cool girl, she bites her nails playfully pretending that we aren’t there, slows down before the big choruses. And then, she improvises on the big verses or on the bridge of “Rehab” for example, rousing the audience. Her voice is majestic – at that time she was still able to control this miraculous tool.
This pretentiously “folk” character she shows on the stage leaves me icily indifferent and I confess that the biggest part of the concert was somehow boring. Although, even then, we knew (the group of friends that was there) that we lived an unforgettable concert, both for the right and –unfortunately- for all the bad reasons.