WHILE I’ve never been a fan of her music, I was touched by Amy Winehouse’s untimely death.
Her distinctive, powerful voice and conviction made her a refreshing change in a world of generic, plastic performers.
Amy could put a decent tune together without having to rely on professional songwriters.
Indeed, when she wasn’t stuffed full of liquor and narcotics she was intelligent and articulate.
Her consumption of drugs and booze may have generated as many headlines as her musical achievements. But, unlike the equally drug-addled and far less gifted Peter Doherty, Amy was a genuine talent. Her death last Saturday was predictable but no less tragic for it.
Amy, however, was no genius contrary to the claims of one Channel Four announcer before a documentary on her life was broadcast on Tuesday. It seems the word ‘genius’ has, like many words, been devalued.
According to my dictionary a genius is ‘a person of extraordinary intellectual, imaginative, expressive or inventive ability’.
Amy produced just two albums. They may have both received critical acclaim and gongs galore, but an artist previously had to write more than two quality albums to be considered a genius.
When you compare Winehouse to some of pop’s luminaries (John Lennon, Kate Bush and Kurt Cobain to name a few) she’s lagging some way behind.
John Lennon and The Beatles essentially wrote the rules for popular music over a long and rapidly evolving career that rarely sacrificed quality for the sake of innovation. I admit, though, that some of Lennon’s solo albums were a bit ropey.
Nothing sounded remotely like Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights when it topped the charts in 1978. Bush, who was 20 at the time, went on to produce a string of ever challenging yet popular records.
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana changed the face of rock almost overnight in 1991.
The influence of all three is still clear in popular music today.
Maybe Amy had more gems in her canon which may have been realised had she survived and kicked her addictions for good, but we’ll never know. Perhaps Amy’s music will influence countless artists in the future. But at the moment that isn’t certain and it’s risky to label someone a genius through speculation. Maybe she could have been one but there isn’t enough evidence to support that. Furthermore, I doubt Amy would have ever been comfortable with such a title.