Thank you all for coming and paying your last respects to Amy Winehouse. According to the news, there are literally millions of fans, not to mention friends and family, in mourning today. And I’m humbled to be here even if I frankly don’t understand why I was chosen. I mean, Amy and I weren’t close and I don’t own any of her music, but I appreciate the opportunity to pay homage to an artist who I’d like to believe would have been one of my best friends if only she were some wholly different human being.

How to eulogize Amy Winehouse? It’s hard to know where to begin. No one was more shocked than I upon hearing the news. It just didn’t seem possible that the zombie curse that had been keeping Amy alive these last 6 years had somehow been broken. How could this be?

But I’ll leave that question to the necromancers an shamans. I’m just grateful for whatever enchanted heroin or cursed eyeliner that sustained her in the absence of blood for these many years. Think of all the extra music that was created. Wait, was any music created? I’m not sure, but still, y’know? Wow.

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Is one of these the secret to everlasting non-life?

It’s hard to make sense out of a loss like this. Maybe it would help if we had been there to hear her final words, but probably not since I’m guessing they were inaudible what with that rubber tubing clenched between her teeth. Oh, hey wait, I’m not sure she had teeth. I’m sorry, I’ve lost my train of thought. This is a tough time for me. . .

Oh, before I forget, the family has asked me to make a statement regarding the funeral arrangements. The cremation has been cancelled. Or, more specifically, the cremation has been banned by London officials for fear of a nation-wide contact high. Similarly, on behalf of all aquatic animal life, PETA has protested both the sprinkling of her ashes and the burial of her body at sea in its potent uncut form. Amy will now be interred in a lead-case bunker. For those of you wishing to attend the burial, hazmat suits and binoculars are available upon request.

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OK, that’s enough with the news bulletins. Let’s get back to the business of remembering Amy. Given Amy’s unusual fashion sense, distinct singing voice, and unique ability to stay alive while gobbling up lots and lots and lots of heroin, it’s easy to forget how important she was. Or to overlook her tremendous level of influence on her peers. I mean, I know for a fact that upon hearing news of Amy’s demise, Adele instantly marked her calendar to die of a massive drug overdose five years from now. Imitation truly is the highest form of flattery.

I can see from your faces that perhaps, maybe, I’ve said something to somehow offend some of you slightly. If so, I apologize. Maybe it’s because I don’t see this strictly as a tragedy. For me, Amy’s story is one of incredible perseverance. Not all of us can be Kurt Cobain or Sid Vicious. These are guys who can dabble in heroin for a year or two, shoot a huge spike and then simply die. Maybe, they choke on vomit or they pull a shotgun trigger with their toes while whacked out on junk. But whatever the cause, it’s all over fairly quickly. But Amy was possessed of a unique ability to keep living despite all of her best efforts. You could take her career, her teeth, every ounce of her life-sustaining body fat, and she would not stop. Hers was a heart that beat so fierce, that even in the bloodless hollow of a battered shell of a body, there was the thump of determination.

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Amateurs.

A lesser person would have given up. Gone to rehab. Jumped in front of a moving train. But Amy said, “screw you, heroin. Get into my body and get the job done.” And so it did. It may have taken seven years, but Amy finally got her wish of fatally overdosing on junk. That’s a level of commitment we need to see more of today. Especially from artists like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus who clearly lack Amy’s level of endurance and dedication.

I see some of you shaking your heads (and calling security) so before I go, let me put it another way. Let’s try to see this as a release. Not necessarily Amy’s release from the horror of a life riddled with addiction and perhaps mental illness. That seems obvious enough, and we’re all glad that’s over. She must have battled or embraced these demons like millions of others before her who are not reported on by the news or mourned by the lot of you. And why should they be? Most of those people couldn’t even play guitar or sing in a blues/jazz throwback voice. So really, what good were they? But I’m talking about someone else.

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Couldn’t even carry a tune .

I’m talking about young cancer-riddled mothers clinging to life, forced to suck up chemotherapy in the hopes it will keep them alive long enough to see their child’s third birthday. Or children afflicted with horrific diseases identified by foreign names and numbers. Or anyone living in tremendous pain, but still praying for another day of life. How hard must it be to know you will die for no good reason while you watch others throw it all away in a constant game of Russian roulette that inexplicably refuses to claim them? How debilitating to your struggle?

If I were a better man, I guess I’d have room in my heart for everyone. But I don’t know how to quantify the sadness for someone like Amy without making a mockery of the suffering for those other people I just mentioned. I don’t know how to care about the death of the addict who is famous versus all addicts who die just as young and badly all the time — and perhaps without the advantages and assistance of wealth. I suppose I could simply acknowledge the Winehouse story and mumble something like “so sad,” but I’d feel like a liar.

So let me end by saying I do wish that whatever chemical or biological or environmental affliction that trapped Amy into a death spiral of heroin addiction didn’t exist. Of course, I do. But without those influences, she probably would have been some completely different person, and I’m not so sure the millions of you would have shown up to mourn her loss here today.

21 Responses to “My Eulogy for Amy Winehouse”

  1. your back well sort of… Any news on the videos comming back yet?

    As for Amy meh.

  2. Even better than the Cracked article, which I loved.

  3. Thank you for this, how refreshing to see someone telling the truth rather than regurgitating trite, disingenuous crap. If only Bieber and Cyrus had the “heart” and “spirit” of Amy, I don’t know, youngsters these days…

  4. Did Keith Richards attend Amy Winehouse cremation?

  5. When my brother changed the channel to BBC News, I thought it would be something important, but it was just “Amy Winehouse is dead” garbage, expecting me to care about some celebrity death again, and I didn’t, especially because we all knew this day would come eventually.

  6. You make some good points, Mr. Gladstone.

  7. That sums it up pretty well. It’s exactly the way I felt about Layne Staley. We’re supposed to feel bad for this guy, who was essentially living the dream (rock star, millions of screaming fans, et cetera), but who traded his talent and good fortune to ride the H-train to the grave. There was no shortage of people who wanted to help, No shortage of resources with which to fight that addiction. But in spite of this, he had an endurance, a willingness to see it through to the very end.

    We are expected to feel pity because these people were addicts, but it’s funny how that well of sympathy seems to dry up for random homeless crack head #1,743,856 when he’s trying to chip a buck off you in the subway. Yet, what opportunity for recovery does he have? There are organizations which offer help to such people, and there will always be the exceptional few who can succeed against tremendous adversity. But the organizations which help these people are almost invariably religious in nature, requiring indentured servitude to some faith to receive services. The treatment centers for these people are essentially prisons with underpaid counselors, and little more.

    I’m not saying that it’s easy for a wealthy person to give up an addiction. Giving up an addiction feels like giving up air, if there was a way to do that without dying. Still, it must be easier to stay committed to their recovery when they are in a comfortable environment, eating real food, provided with distractions and comforts and generally treated like a human being.

    Of course, at the end of the day it’s a matter of personal security and practicality that we avoid these people. It’s a hard fact that you can’t trust an addict.

    Maybe that’s why it’s hard to work up some kind of pity or regret as to the outcome of a famous person’s descent into addiction. Maybe that’s why it’s offensive when we see others gush over someone whose demise was clearly imminent, just because they were talented and well known. That guy on the street probably wishes 3 times a day that he could shake the habit. Every time he wakes up in a pool of his own shit, he must feel a kind of shame and self-hate that we could never understand. But it’s easier to scrounge up $20 for a rock than it is to begin the road to recovery with its endless paperwork and bureaucracy, and referrals, and stipulations, and restrictions, and incarceration, and other junkies many of whom have no intention of changing, and are merely there because the courts sentenced them to treatment. Meanwhile, someone with wealth and family and fame need only say the word, and a limo will shuttle them to a place with a hot tub and a waitstaff and a stunning view of the countryside.

    So when they don’t, just once, take that relatively small effort; when they can’t work up the capacity to give a shit about themselves, why should I feel the slightest remorse? Because it’s a waste?

    No, that just makes me angry.

    That went a little longer than I intended… Good article.

    • That was the most insightful comment ever, and I agree with you fully.

      • Thanks – I really put some effort into writing it, so I appreciate your kind words.

        That might be the first time in Internet history that someone has used a reply button to say something nice ;)

        • As a recovering Yikes! Vikes! abuser, I am in that system….luckily, it’s run by the county so no “God” crud is forced down my throat, and the folks there are pretty nice and caring. Not like a DMV with methadone, which being run by the county, one would think it could be. Now that we have read that AW died from alcohol poisoning, it still makes no difference; maybe just more relate-able, cuz there are many more alcoholics than opiate abusers. All the same, AW gets zero sympathy from me, for the exact reasons you so eloquently stated. Terrific!

    • That was beautifully written, thank you. You’ve eloquently said everything I’ve always thought about celeb overdoses. I was never able to muster the smallest ounce of sympathy, so when everyone pukes their grief all over facebook, I keep quiet. I see it as mass hysteria, and I’ve always been loath to have anything to do with it.

  8. I know it seems OK to make sport of addiction, and that addicts are to be judged in the harshest possiable terms. Be careful/

    One day it may be your wife, or your child, or a friend, or a friend’s child, Someday, your phone may ring in the middle of the night and you will be told that a life that you love has been eaten up and destroyed by addiction.

    I pray that day never comes for you. It did come for me. And I can tell you first hand, all your sarcasm and judgment will do you little good. Do you really think you will stare into the dead face of the one you lost and say “He had it comin. it was his own fault.” ? I pray you never find out.

    Yes, the world is full of problems, and millions die everyday of various causes, and no one cares. Do you expect to cure this by adding to the callousness? Pity the homeless, but screw the addicts? Is there so little love in your heart that you feel you have to ration it?

    I am glad that the ignorance you displyed here can be cured. Here is a challenge, Go to a meeting, meet an addict, see what it’s like. You will get yourself an education.

    All respect and best wishes to you.
    Joe

    • Joe,
      Addiction is a tragedy, and not a new one. People in several generations of my family have died through the abuse of alcohol or other drugs. My great grandmother would not get out of bed without her opium and whiskey. I never knew your friend, but I doubt your friend had better access to alternatives for treatment than my family had, from their first use to their deaths. But after we’ve watched our loved ones suffer to their graves, why should we focus on the death of a millionaire celebrity we don’t know, who flaunted her addiction internationally despite having access to any kind of treatment she chose?

      I believe the article is less about addiction and contempt for it, and more a criticism of the double standard of this information age. Thousands (or millions?) of people took a moment to mourn a famous stranger before they went back to wishing Someone would do Something to get rid of these annoying, panhandling crackheads.

      I commend your compassion, truly. Some of us do feel contempt for people facing problems that they seem to have brought on themselves. Others of us thoughtlessly envy them because we wish we could bring ourselves to abandon our responsibilities and find some solace from our pain in a bottle or a needle.

      My sympathies for your loss and for your friend. I wish it wasn’t too little, far too late.
      Kate

    • But I don’t think these people are mourning the death of a celebrity because they think she “deserves” it, like being a celebrity means your death is more important than an other’s. Well, maybe that is the case for some people – they see lots of people talking about how sad they are, and think they need to “out mourn” that person, or they’ll look like they’re callous, or weren’t really a fan.

      But often celebrities become famous because their fans feel some kind of personal bond with the celebrity. How strong that bond is depends on the fan, and it’s not something I feel very often, but I still don’t feel very comfortable belittling it. And ultimately, if someone else you felt a personal bond with died from addiction, say a friend or family member, it wouldn’t be coming down to “I should feel sad because he was awesome” or “I shouldn’t feel sad because he was an addict.” You would just feel sad.

      Now I understand that comparing a bond you feel with a celebrity to that you feel with a friend is kind of lame and creepy, what with celebrities not knowing who the hell you are and whatnot. But celebrities became famous because they sang a song or played a character that you identified with, and felt emotion for. And so you feel attached to the person because you respect their ability to do that, but also because of that emotion they made you feel. Maybe they remind you of a friend, or yourself, or your childhood. But for whatever reason, a lot of people feel sad when such a celebrity dies.

      And sure, if you really look at it, thinking you are sad because you had this “bond” with someone you’ve never met is pretty creepy. But ultimately I think people should feel what they feel – and that goes for both the people who felt genuine sadness when Winehouse died, and the ones who felt nothing, but thought they should post something sad on facebook anyway. You don’t need to justify sadness, or any other emotion, just the actions you take because of it.

  9. one word…Awesome :-)

  10. [...] Gladstone’s articles are almost invariably satirical, but he occasionally has moments where he drops the humor and flat-out says his opinion, especially regarding controversial topics. A specific instance would be his response (which earned almost 283,000 hits and 1100+ comments) to a particularly controversial article eulogizing Amy Winehouse. [...]

  11. Am I dreaming? Is this the internet? This polite and well thought out exchange of opinions and ideas? Now THIS is what Al Gore had in mind, right? :) Refreshing, to say the least. And, not one extraneous apostrophe, either! Yay for this site’s reader’s (that was a joke, BTW)!

  12. Just a side note, she’s been clean and sober for over a year now.

  13. I just want you to know that, even though this reply comes almost two years after the fact, that you still took this one yard. This paragraph: “I’m talking about young cancer-riddled mothers clinging to life, forced to suck up chemotherapy in the hopes it will keep them alive long enough to see their child’s third birthday. Or children afflicted with horrific diseases identified by foreign names and numbers. Or anyone living in tremendous pain, but still praying for another day of life. How hard must it be to know you will die for no good reason while you watch others throw it all away in a constant game of Russian roulette that inexplicably refuses to claim them?” chills me to the bone. And in the best possible way.

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