Amy Amy Amy – The Legacy and Legend of Amy Winehouse

The new Amy Winehouse biopic, Back to Black will be released May 17th. Since it’s a biopic, I’m sure it will take plenty of creative license and will focus largely on the more dramatic and painful aspects of her life.

A quick note: Some of Amy Winehouse's music contains explicit lyrics that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Listener discretion is advised. Additionally, this article contains brief references to substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, and disordered eating.

Contemplating the biopic's release really made me wonder: For someone whose life and death were so sensationalized in the press, do we really need to amp it up?

When it comes to Amy Winehouse, I admittedly wasn’t much of a fan at first. “Rehab” was my introduction to her music. I could tell her voice was something special, but I didn't particularly connect with the experience. The more songs I heard, though, the more I recognized that she was an unbelievably talented singer-songwriter.

A couple of years later, when she died, I remembered being taken aback but sadly not surprised. Her struggles with addiction and the other volatile areas of her life (her sometimes violent relationship with her ex-husband and an eating disorder to name only two) made it seem like she was on a path to tragedy. It was still so devastating to see someone with so much talent and so much heart lose her life when it seemed like she may finally be getting past some of those issues. But of course, her life was constantly in flux, and she was under pressure and frequently hounded by the paparazzi, which likely made fighting those battles even harder.

So after only two studio albums, she was gone. The world was graced with her talent for a fleeting moment. Even people who were repelled by the stories about her in the press now lament that she’s gone, admitting that she was a rare butterfly and that they wish she had lived and continued making music.

She’ll always be on the list of talents gone too soon. She’s a member of the so-called “27 Club,” along with other legendary musicians like Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain.

Up Jumped the Devil

Biography of A Phantom

Wild Thing

The Collected Works of Jim Morrison


Love Me Please


Serving the Servant

MTV Unplugged in New York

Of course, plenty of other musicians have died young at ages other than 27 – but apophenia (the human tendency to attempt to find patterns in the random) along with the level of fame many of these musicians achieved mean that it’s a cultural phenomenon, though not a factual one.

In 2015, I saw the documentary Amy when it was in theaters. I was by myself and, honestly, cried my eyes out. Directed by Asif Kapadia, the narration-free documentary shows, rather than tells, the story of Amy’s life, career, and death by featuring behind-the-scenes footage, photos, and home movies. It’s a beautiful documentary and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


It should be noted that even documentaries have an angle and are not objective and that Winehouse’s father objects to how he is portrayed in Amy. He has, however, given his approval to the new biopic. (Another note: There is also a television documentary from BBC Studios titled Amy Winehouse: Back to Black and another called Reclaiming Amy.)

I probably won’t watch the biopic, myself. I don’t think that the difficulties she faced should be ignored, but she was so much more than a lead character in a dramatic story. I want to celebrate her creative genius while recognizing that her pain was often a wellspring for her art and often resonated with me as a listener. But personally, I would rather focus on what she wanted to share with the world – her music – rather than the sensationalistic details of her life.

Though I battle blind
Love is a fate resigned
Memories mar my mind
Love is a fate resigned
Over futile odds
And laughed at by the gods
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game

Amy Winehouse would have celebrated her 40th birthday last September.