Sunday, 24 July 2011

I Do Feel Sorry

I am a member of a festival forum where people have been discussing the recent passing of Amy Winehouse. Some people have been expressing sympathies and nothing more. Some people have been saying they are not surprised while expressing sympathies. Some people are saying that they simply don’t care. One of the rebuttals to the people saying they don’t care is that they found it within themselves to express sympathy when Paul Gray of Slipknot (a known drug addict) died of a drug overdose, so how can they not find it within themselves to express sympathy for Winehouse? I would like to answer that point, as my views are similar to those people who don’t care that she has passed. I would like to express my sympathies to the family and friends of Amy Winehouse first of all. The mammoth amount of suffering they must have gone through since her very public battle with drug addiction must be awful for them, especially now she has passed.

Is it possible to express more sympathy for the family and friends of Paul Gray? Is it possible that I cared more about that case than I do about this one? Very much so. In the first place, I didn’t know Paul Gray was suffering with a drug problem until after he died. This might have been common knowledge to some people but it wasn’t to me. That in itself answers the question of how can I not feel the same about the death of one drug addict as I did for another. The truth is I didn’t know one of the people was a drug addict. That might not be the conclusive answer to the question though as I now know that Paul Gray is a drug addict. But truthfully that didn’t change my view, nor it did it change the fact I was sad about the fact he died. It was no secret that Amy Winehouse was a drug addict. She was portrayed as troubled throughout her time in the spotlight. Importantly, there were a number of stories about her attempting to get clean but failing. That is absolutely a real shame that she failed to clean herself up, but all the failures seemed very public.

I respect the creative output that came from Paul Gray (and Slipknot) more than I do/did of Amy Winehouse. I will not go on record and say that Winehouse never made anything good, as frankly it isn’t true. Certain parts of the Back to Black album are very good, and the cover of The Zutons – Valerie was very catchy. But aside from that, my respect for her ends. On the other hand, I am a big fan of Slipknot. They are one of my favourite bands and when news broke that a member had died, it was gutting. For personal reasons of taste, I can say I felt worse about Paul Gray’s passing than I now do about Amy Winehouse’s.

There is more than that though. I feel that I am finding it hard to care about Amy Winehouse dying because she was quite regularly in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. We saw reports of her fighting, slagging off pears along with reports of excessive partying and drug taking. She had a career as a musician, yet she was portrayed in the media as someone who got famous and was doing all she could to piss it all away. There were stories about here not being well enough to perform gigs, but being able to be at the pub later, being the life of the party no less. There were stories recently about her latest comeback being terrible, with barely recognisable songs sung by a barely coherent Winehouse. I must admit it is quite funny in a morbid sense that the media, who have spent a lot of time rubbishing her name and attacking her for having a drug problem are now talking about how tragic it is she died of said problem, when the best thing they could have done is appealed for someone to help her. I guess that wouldn’t have sold as many papers though? Paul Gray was not portrayed as such. Slipknot (to my knowledge) never has had to cancel a gig because Gray was out of his brain on drugs. In that sense, it is fair to say he is more professional. It is also fair to say that he kept his drug problem as private as he could. It was no-one’s problem but his and the people directly around him. Even then, his wife after he died said he was more than a drug addict. She said:

"He was a great guy, a great musician, a great husband, a great friend, a great brother, a great son. And I just want people to know that."

It’s hard for me to accept the argument that I should respect and sympathise with the death of Amy Winehouse in the same way as Paul Gray – considering how different their public image was. That might not be Amy Winehouse’s fault that before her death she had such a negative public image, but she sure didn’t seem to do much to try and change it.

To summarise this argument, which only exists due to the original statement being issued that it is contradictory to feel sorry and sympathetic for Paul Gray and not so for Amy Winehouse. Like I said, I do feel sympathy for her family and friends, but that’s because I’m not a complete monster. She did not deserve to die just because she was a drug addict. Her death however does not come as a surprise as she continued to let her life spiral out of control. Returning to the comparison between the two cases though, I did and do feel more for the family of Paul Gray than I do for Amy Winehouse. If I were asked to pinpoint one reason why that is, it is because I respect him more than I do her. Do I know either of them? Of course I don’t. It is all about image, and I respect his image more.

As a side note, unrelated to the argument I have put forward here, there has been quite a bit of attention paid to the fact that she has died at the age of 27. That may not mean an awful lot but a number of other musicians have also died at the age of 27. This group of musicians are called The 27 Club. They are:

Brian Jones (1942-1969)
Janis Joplin (1943-1970)
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
Jim Morrison (1943-1971)
Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)
Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

Hopefully, no-one else will join this club. 27 is no age to die.

As an absolutely final point, I am quite pleased with how the media did cover this weekend’s events. There was an absolutely horrible tragedy that took place in Norway where 92 innocent people lost their lives. They were killed by a man who it has since been revealed is a right-wing conservative Christian. As a friend of mine said, it goes to show that the biggest threat to the civilised world is religious fundamentalism of all kinds. People have said in response to Amy Winehouse dying that they are withholding their sympathies for Norway over a dead drug addict. There is nothing that says you can‘t feel varying levels of sympathy at the same time. I am pleased that the front pages of the paper treated this tragedy with more importance as in the grand scheme of things, it is more important. I feared that, in the celebrity obsessed culture we live in, that Winehouse dying might receive the front pages over the story from Norway, but this did not happen. I was pleased to see this.

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