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BBC: ‘Amy, My Daughter’.

Happy Saturday! I am so, so happy it’s the weekend (I hate being that person) – this week was so crazy at work and, even though I have lots of things on my to-do list this weekend, I’m happy just to be out of the office.

I actually read the latest pick from Blanche’s Book Club in one sitting last Sunday, but it’s taken me all week to gather my thoughts on it for you. So let’s get into it! Today, I’m talking about, “Amy, My Daughter” by Mitch Winehouse. Here is the description from Amazon:

The intimate, inside story of the ultimately tragic life of multiple Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse (“Rehab,” “Back to Black”)  is told by the one person most able to tell it—Amy’s closest advisor, her inspiration, and best friend: her father, Mitch. Amy, My Daughter includes exclusive, never-before-seen photos and paints an open and honest portrait of one of the greatest musical talents of our time.

Before I get into the heart of the book, I want to say that it took me a really long time to read it. Amy Winehouse’s album “Back to Black” changed my life – sounds super cheesy, but I loved that album (still do).

I listened to it on repeat, and when she got her first “Rolling Stone” cover, I was quick to buy it and read the feature. But it was then I realized all of the drug references in her album were…actually true. And I cried. I remember calling my mom and saying that Amy Winehouse was going to die and why was she living like that?

But still, I loved her and her music, and I framed that cover and hung it in my apartment. Today, it’s hanging in my kitchen. When I learned about Amy’s death, I was heartbroken. I can’t say I was surprised, but I felt she was gone way too soon.

Since then, however, I’ve lived a little more. I’ve dated an addict. And I’ve seen just how bad things can get. I know what it’s like to be with someone that’s possibly the worst person in the world for you. I know what it’s like to hang around a bad crowd. And I know what it’s like to not give a shit about yourself to the point of danger.

When I finally picked this book up from the library and posted about it on social media – I got messages immediately. I was quickly reminded just how controversial Amy was/is and how many questions still surround her short life, and the way she died.

I’ll admit that I didn’t read much press about Amy, even when she was alive. I knew about her husband, Blake, and I knew she was battling addiction and was very close to being thrown in jail. I saw clips of her drunken performances. But, that’s about it.

I still haven’t watched the documentary, and I didn’t know much about her family before reading this book. What I did know, though, is that you cannot force an addict to get help. An addict has to want to get the help for themselves.

I also knew that myself, nor any of the people spouting off opinions, have ever been famous to the point that Amy Winehouse was. Photographers basically lived in her yard, waiting for her to step outside. None of us know what that’s like.

Her music came from a place of pain. In a way, that’s why it was so good. But it was also a part of her downfall.

So, let’s get into the book.

For starters, it’s written by Amy’s dad, Mitch – an important consideration when he talks about his opinion of Amy’s music, and her hair and makeup (heh). He basically is telling Amy’s life story, but most of it does focus on the years when she was in the spotlight while battling addiction. Here are some of the lines I made note of:

  • It was precisely because her songs were dragged up out of her soul that they were so powerful and passionate. The ones that went into Back to Black were about the deepest of emotions. And she went through hell to make it.
  • While the album’s success altered Amy’s career in every way imaginable, it came with a high price tag. The nature of the songs made it hard for her to feel as excited as you might expect about the album’s reception and success. Whereas people might walk along the street humming “Love is a Losing Game”, to Amy it was like a knife in her heart, a reminder of the worst of times.
  • I didn’t think Amy would die, but I just couldn’t see a way out of this. You don’t become an expert in anything overnight, and I was still learning how best to deal with an addict.
  • Perhaps the most difficult thing about loving and helping an addict, which most people who haven’t been through it don’t understand, is this: every day the cycle continues is your new worst day. When looked at from the outside it seems endless, the same thing over and over again, but when you’re living it, it’s like being a hamster on a wheel.

I want to touch on that last point. Amy went to rehab more than a dozen times. Honestly, reading about all of her incidents in the book became a bit exhausting. Each page was starting to sound the same – in the morning she’d say she wanted to get clean, and by lunch there were drug dealers bringing her crack and by nightfall, she was high. The next day, the same thing.

Even with a nurse by her side, waiting for the 12-hour sobriety mark so she could start a proper detox, Amy could not stay sober. She often had drugs brought to her in rehab – stuffed inside teddy bears or hidden in flower bouquets.

As much as I loved her, she lived probably longer than a similar addict would have. Her family did everything they could to help her – kicking people out of her house, supporting her music, hiring guards to keep drug dealers out of rehab, etc.

I cried while reading this book, as it truly is just a tragic story. A talent gone too soon. Some of the most beautiful things come from the darkest of places – but there is often a price to pay, and she suffered the ultimate one.

My heart breaks for her family, particularly her dad, but I know there are fans across the world that will never forget the gift she left all of us, and the path she created for a new kind of woman in music.

I wish I could say no regrets
And no emotional debts
Cause as we kiss goodbye the sun sets
So we are history
The shadow covers me
The sky above ablaze that only lovers see

-Amy Winehouse, “Tears Dry On Their Own”

I’m recommending this book to Amy Winehouse fans – especially those that were not jaded from the (apparently) subjective view of the documentary.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “How to Party With an Infant” by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

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Albums that changed my life.

Happy Humpday, my friends! Ever since I found out I’m seeing the Backstreet Boys (in just a few short weeks), I have been taking a stroll down memory lane via old CDs. Yes, I still have CDs. A lot of them are still in my car, and once I got started, I couldn’t stop digging through my collection to see which ones still worked and what songs I still remembered.

So, I started thinking about the albums that really, really meant something to me – then, and still very much now. I didn’t realize it until I wrote this post, but they’re all female empowerment albums, so I guess you could say I’ve been a feminist from the start! Here are my life-changers:

Jagged Little Pill (1995)

I first heard Alanis Morissette when she released the music video for “Hand in my Pocket”. I thought she looked so cool, and I loved that song. I was in 5th grade, and she was speaking my soul.

Shortly after, she released “Ironic”, and I was hooked. I begged my mom to take me to see her in concert, and we did, and it was AWESOME (even though she’s a bit much in-person). I have no real idea how her lyrics connected with me at such a young age, but they did.

I had never experienced heartbreak, or at least not really, but I felt like an outsider, and she was rebellious and I liked that. And today? I still do. I actually have “Jagged Little Pill” on vinyl, and it is incredible. My favorite song has to be “All I Really Want”, because all I really want, is SOME JUSTICE…AAHHOOWWWOWOWOWOWOWWOOOOWWWW.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

The Fugees’ album “The Score” was one of my first tastes of hip-hop. I loved it, so when Lauryn Hill debuted her solo album, I was all over it. And wow. I would venture to say this album has had the most impact on me, musically, in my life thus far.

This was a popular one, selling 1 million copies in its first month (8 million copies in 4 years), and it remained in the top charts for 81 weeks. At the time, Lauren Hill was an icon, and her album was everywhere – even later being placed on several “Best Album Ever” lists.

But in 2000, Hill basically disappeared from the public eye, and stayed hidden for nearly four years. To this day, anytime I see her on TV, I’m shocked. I know that a lot of artists describe an album release as having a child, and she also had a REAL child, after her album release… and I think that album was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Regardless, I respect her tremendously, and frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without “Ex-Factor”.

Back to Black (2006)

Amy, Amy, Amy… Rest in peace. I had been a long, long time since an album hit me like this one did. I was fresh off a string of bad men, and wow, this chick had something to say. Frankly, I didn’t realize her authenticity, until I read a Rolling Stone article about her life, her drug use, and her eternal love for Blake.

That article still hangs in a frame in my apartment. It was a true loss of innocence, but also a realization that this was an artist who wasn’t just putting on a show. Sadly, she was living every bit of her pain.

While I couldn’t connect with her drug and alcohol addiction, I could very well connect with her willingness to love wholeheartedly, even when it was just wrong. And I still very much love her for putting all of that into words – it healed me in a way I cannot full understand.

The title track is one of my favorites, as is “He Can Only Hold Her”… it all varies depending on my mood.

…There you have it! Notice you don’t see any John Mayer albums here… while all of his albums have meant a lot to me, they have served as “soundtracks” to sections of my life, but not anthems, if that makes sense (still love you, John!). I’d love to know what albums you can’t quit; tell me in the comments!

Pic of the Week.

I got a record player for my birthday! Wahoo! It’s something I’ve been wanting for years; mainly because I think it’d be really fun to hunt for records. I was always planning on buying a player for myself, but just never could get around to justifying it.

So, I asked for one and my mom got it for me, along with a few of my favorite records — Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill.”

I didn’t get a traditional-looking record player; I wanted something different, and something small. I don’t have much room for anything big in my apartment and the last thing I need is more clutter. I got the Sylvania Turntable in blue, with USB coding (see it here).

The cool thing about it is, you can use batteries with it if you aren’t in a situation to plug it in! And, if you buy a record that you don’t have otherwise, you can hook it up to your computer and it will put the digital files there. Neat!

Last Friday night, I got home from work and needed to get some cleaning done, so I decided to take a moment and set up my record player. Now, I’ve never even touched a record, so I actually did follow the provided directions.

It took me a minute to get everything set up, but I put in Jagged Little Pill first. Everything was sounding good, until it just wasn’t. The song slowed down and sounded completely warped. I looked into the other room where the record player was, and… Blanche.

The open-style of the Sylvania had tempted Blanche — think about it, an open-record, spinning — and she had her paw on the record. Nnnoooooo!

It took me 30 minutes of reminding Blanche, NO, we do not touch the record. This was very, very difficult, as Blanche is a kitty who loves two things: 1. Loud music, and 2. anything mysteriously moving.

But by side two, Blanche had distanced herself (1 foot) from the player and was being a decent cat about the situation. I just hope the record isn’t completely ruined.

In other news, being reminded how freaking good Jagged Little Pill was? PRICELESS. There are songs on there I totally forgot about, and as I was listening, and singing along, I was Googling, and found out that this month, the album turns 20. Wow (I actually found a recent article from Elle on the subject).

“One Hand in my Pocket” might still be my jam.

There’s a ton of albums on my wish list right now — John Mayer, of course, David Gray, Lauren Hill, Alicia Keys, Jamie Cullum, Chris Botti, etc. — but what are some you’ve heard that you think I’d like?

“I feel drunk but I’m sober, I’m young and I’m underpaid. I’m tired but I’m working, yeah. I care but I’m restless, I’m here but I’m really gone. I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby.” — One Hand in my Pocket

WYSK: Amy Winehouse.

Beautiful & talented, Amy Winehouse

Beautiful & talented, Amy Winehouse

When I heard the song, “Rehab” for the first time, I thought Amy Winehouse was a smart-mouthed, bad ass bitch, just making fun of pop culture and it’s celebulites, of the Lindsay Lohan-sort.

So, I bought “Back to Black,” unaware that it would be an album that changed my world — not unlike Lauryn Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Having just gone through a breakup at the time, her words struck a chord in my heart. Hell, most of the songs still ring true for me today, and I have a feeling they will for awhile.

I don’t understand, Why do I stress A man, When there’s so many bigger things at hand, We could a never had it all, We had to hit a wall, So this is inevitable withdrawal, Even if I stop wanting you, A Perspective pushes true, I’ll be some next man’s other woman soon.

—Amy Winehouse, Tears Dry On Their Own

I was obsessed with the lyrics on the entire album, the jazz sound, not to mention her cool style — the hair, the eyes — and of course, her signature voice. But I wasn’t the only one who loved what I was hearing: the album won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album (for 2007), it was named UK’s 2nd Bestselling Album of the 21st Century (selling 3.5 copies in the UK alone), and by 2012, it had sold more than 20 million copies around the world.

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Amy’s 2007 RS cover

Shortly after I fell in love with the album, I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of Amy’s cover issue of Rolling Stone. But when I read the story inside, I discovered something I never expected — her substance problems.

I know, I know, call me crazy. But I was naive, and I didn’t really know anything about drugs or terms, and I didn’t know that her songs were referring to actual experience with substance abuse.

“I loved you much, it’s not enough, you love blow, and I love puff…” (Back to Black).

I called my mom in tears — why was such a talented person doing drugs? I was scared she would die before I ever got to see her perform live.

It was a moment I’ll never forget — a loss of innocence from a magazine, happening when I was nearly 22 years old.

I put it in that part of my mind that does myself favors; eventually letting my worries fade. After all, I’ve never let an artist’s personal life deter me from making a decision about their craft. There’s something attractive to me about people who are so, so passionate about what they do, it nearly becomes their demise.

What I love about Ms. Winehouse was her honesty. She sang about her relationships openly, even if they weren’t stereotypically beautiful. Her songs were relatable, and that is priceless.

I continued as a fan, bought her previous album, “Frank,” watched her live performances on YouTube, and turned a cheek when paparazzi took jabs wherever they could, releasing less-than-flattering photos of my favorite cat-eyed chick.

And then, we all know what happened. Her time was cut short. I was in the worst mood when I found out she was gone; I felt silly for being so upset about a celebrity dying, but I was so sad that she was so young, and that we’d never get to hear new material.

But I know my sorrow was selfish.

And as sad as I was, and sometimes still get over our lost legend, I was thrilled when an album was released, “Lioness: Hidden Treasure,” songs by Amy Winehouse that were left unheard, or remixes of songs fans loved — my favorite song on that album is a cover of “Our Day Will Come” (click the picture below to see the video and hear Amy’s version).

Today, Amy Winehouse is remembered by her family, friends, and fans. Donate to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, or buy cool merchandise that supports their efforts to help young talents with substance abuse problems.

The one and only...

The one and only…

Life’s short. Anything could happen, and it usually does, so there is no point in sitting around thinking about all the ifs, ands and buts.

—Amy Winehouse, 1983-2011