The world celebrated the fact that she wouldn’t go to rehab –by buying a million copies of the same titled song, the public was giving some sort of tacit approval or at least condoning her lifestyle. She was a train travelling at top speed into a crash – we all knew it but turned a blind eye, hoping the worst wouldn’t happen and not caring enough. We watched her degenerate, muttered a few derogatory comments and turned the channel.
When I heard she had died I was strangely touched. I did feel a sense of loss – like when something of worth is wasted - a bottle of expensive perfume accidentally broken or a porcelain vase knocked over by mistake – impossible to put back together; their fragrance and beauty forever lost to the world.
When I watch TV clips of her, I see a little girl playing at being grown up – all overdone hair and lacquered eyes. The early interviews of her show a plumply innocent girl who just wanted to make a musical contribution and happened to be gifted enough to do so. However the world of show business is more than just the music and Amy got caught up in the hype. Her unstable family background, lack of father figure (she said her father was more like a brother) and intense desire to love and be loved already put her at a disadvantage –she was too vulnerable to manage without a crutch. She had always had that flicker of danger, getting pulled out of the prestigious Sylvia Young theatre school for attitude problems but still there was that vulnerability and innocence. A comment in one of her later interviews revealed the fatal flaw; she was a poet who desired to live out the drama of poetry. She embraced a way of life full of intense high’s and low’s - an on off relationship with a man of dubious character (who introduced her to hard drugs), pub brawls and tabloid wars. True life really shouldn’t be that exciting; after all everybody knows poetry is a reflection of real life but better (all the drama and none of the blandness). Apparently nobody told Amy. She chased a continuous high.
So we watched the witty and vivacious Jewish girl from North London degenerate into a skinny obnoxious hag. Who do we blame – the public who celebrated or at least tolerated her refusal to go to rehab, the parents who never stepped up to the plate and forced her to make some changes or the music officials who kept her touring instead of refusing to market her music unless she cleaned up her act? Or do we blame Amy, being an adult, who chose to squander such talent? Perhaps the blame is to be shared.
And what lessons do we take from her life and death? Her life is a proverb and a byword – Deut 28:7. Her life teaches me that parents must be careful never to be more of a friend than a parent to their children; that talent alone is never, ever enough; that we must be diligent to steward our gifts, that our choices have consequences and catch up with sooner or later and that the fear of God really is the beginning
of wisdom (something which Amy lacked and that ultimately cost her her life).
Bimbo Fola-Alade ( with contributions from Toni Fola-Alade).
First published 25 July 2011