Maybe now that Amy Winehouse has fallen into that darkness around whose edge she was always walking -- maybe now, that she's lost for good -- we can admit what she was: a rare genius.
Winehouse died this weekend in the same way many seem to remember her passing her life: getting fucked up out of her mind. The latest binge apparently came after a fight with her boyfriend, Reg Traviss, over a phone call she made to her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. The 27-year-old expired alone in bed in the wake of the 36-hour post-argument bender. Beforehand, she'd imbibed heroic amounts of whiskey and -- in the last drug deal of her life -- purchased heroin, coke, Ecstasy, and ketamine near her home in London.
Winehouse was of course famous for this kind of recreation. When she was alive, the "Rehab" singer served as a reliable "What now?" jester for a public that callously rubbernecked at her slow destruction more than it ever appreciated her music. She filled the mockery galleries of supermarket tabloids, the only places where it's not considered distasteful to laugh at those who are clearly unable -- or, more sadly, unwilling -- to halt the train of their own self-destruction.
But now that Winehouse is gone, let's forget all that bullshit.
Instead, let's spend more time with the good that came out of her demons -- her incredible music: Frank, the 2003 debut that marked her as the jazz/soul diva with punk attitude, a voice to kill, and a habit of fearless inquiry into the unsightly innards of human emotion.
Or Back to Black, the 2006 Mark Ronson-produced follow-up that won Winehouse five Grammys -- an album that hasn't lost one degree of its emotional and musical burn. Let's be brave, and go to the title track and its opening lines, which have in recent days grown even more chilling than they always were:
He left no time to regret
Kept his dick wet
With his same ol' safe bet
Me and my head high
And my tears dry
Get on without my guy
You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I go back to black
We only said goodbye with words
I died 100 times
You go back to her
And I go back to ...
Amy Winehouse was a rare species -- one whose destructive habits in this life unfortunately overshadowed the incredible talent that came with them. Having often doted, unjustly, on the awful choices she made while alive, let's repay the debt by remembering her in death for what she was at her best: one of the bravest and most evocative singers of her time.