Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jam Tarts, the choir I sing with, run by the modest and stunning Li Mills, is starting the autumn term with Back to Black by Amy Winehouse. When I first heard Amy on radio 1 singing that song, needless to say I hadn't a clue who she was. Radio 1 was on because my daughter was in the car and I can't drive and fight for control of the radio. Sometimes, though, there are pleasant surprises and hearing this song flung at me was one of them. It was so out of character for Radio 1. It was like revisiting my early listening, the growly old Alexis Korner, the blues, Patti Smith, but most of all she reminded me of Janis Joplin. This is probably a comparison that's been made a million times but since I have no TV, don't read a tabloid paper, or even a quality one regularly now, I'm out of touch with popular/celebrity culture. Anyway, Li played her to us on CD last night - our first session - so we could get a sense of the rhythm of the song.

I love Janis and I could really like Amy. Their voices go deep, reach into that Bosch-like place we visit in ourselves sometimes when we are troubled. I guess there are people who never visit that place. Just as most of us probably don't visit it as often as Janis did and clearly Amy is doing right now. I'm not capable of commenting on her personal life, especially as so many are. There's no glamour in addiction - I know this as I scrub the sticky squares off my skin, residues of nicotine patches....and struggle with the headache that's caused when I forget to put one on and go back to the roll-ups.

We are all responsible, though, aren't we, for glamourising her tragic, dangerous lifestyle? Living it vicariously in Sid and Nancy t shirts, our record collections, on our bookshelves. It's not just the tabloids, the TV, the record companies and the hangers on. I can understand her father in law's thinking when he pleaded with people to boycott her work. What is so desperate is the inevitability of each decade claiming its rock martyrs and the public's failure to give up its thrills, even faced with evidence of real illness. So - to the amphitheatre in Arles, maybe......

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