Today I find myself comparing and contrasting the death of Amy Winehouse with that of Kurt Cobain 17 years ago. The similarities are obvious enough: They were both musicians, both drug addicts, and both 27. Kurt’s death was clearly suicide (conspiracy theories notwithstanding), while Amy’s is a little murky; as of this writing the cause of death is still TBD, though in any case she was clearly on a death trip. The way she lived was tantamount to suicide, whether or not she picked this particular day to check out.
As for the differences, Kurt’s demise was somehow more surprising than Amy’s, even though he had tried at least once before and even written a song called “I Hate Myself and Want to Die.” I remember being deeply chilled by the sheer nihilism of it; here was a guy who had everything people want — fame, talent, fortune, a hot crazy wife and a baby daughter — and yet he chose to pull his own plug. In thinking about it, I’ve decided that one big reason his death was shocking was that he had been musically active nearly till the end; the famous MTV Unplugged session was only six months before his death in April of 94, and Nirvana had been on tour earlier that year. You tend to think that as long as a musician has music, he has a reason to live.
In contrast, Any Winehouse had been largely silent music-wise for the last several years of her life, though apparently some recordings were made during this period (which will no doubt be rushed to market ASAP). She made some live appearances but was invariably too wasted to perform a complete set and/or remember the words to her songs. In this context it was easy to believe she wouldn’t be around for long.
Her death was not surprising, then, but still sad. Maybe not as sad, from a certain point of view, as the many upright citizens who will get hit by a bus today, or struck down by some vulgar little tumor. Still, you wonder about the inner pain that drives a person to self-destruction. In the end what can you say, really, more than: rest in peace.