July 23, 2011
The Dock Of The Bay
Amy Winehouse died, and I learned that from hateful facebook status updates. I was inclined to join in the hate. After all, who doesn't love dancing on a grave?
I wasn't familiar with her music or life, but I remembered her song Rehab, of course. It wasn't half bad, and for all I remember, It might have even been half good. So I looked it up on Youtube.
It was pretty good- about as good as modern mainstream pop music can be. An interesting voice and personality backed by neo-soul and jazz instrumentation. Not bad. Then I decided to read the Youtube comments. What a mistake.
The comments were coming in so quickly in the wake of her death that they were moving like in a chat room. It was everything you might expect. Mostly RIP AMY in various forms. Then every 10 comments, give-or-take a couple- IRONY FOR THE WIN(These are the people I hate the most). And every 15 comments there'd be a comment that mentioned that Amy Winehouse is now part of the 27 Club.
Many musicians died from misadventure or suicide when they were 27. Someone noticed this when Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all died within the same 365 days. Since then, everyone's noticed a shit ton of musicians die at 27(instead of noticing they all had J's in their names). When I was reminded of Janis Joplin, I drew a connection between Amy Winehouse and her. [The drunk white female soul singer, soon to be a stock character] Then I thought to look up some of Joplin's performances.
I read the comments underneath the Janis Joplin videos and was delighted to see that some other people had made the same connection. Many comments suggested both Winehouse and Joplin were cut from the same cloth, and that both of them ought to rest in peace. Then, of course, I saw the reactionaries.
Looking up old things on Youtube is an awesome way to live in the past. You can watch an interview with Joseph Heller or Jimi Hendrix and wish you were there. Tons of people have taken this practice to extremes and simply hate everything modern. There's a huge segment of commenters on Youtube who wish that time had never moved forward. On every video of a great 20th century musician there's an up-voted comment saying something like Good lord, give us back Jim Morrison and take Justin Bieber! Or something like I was totally born in the wrong decade.
So on the live performance of Janis Joplin I was watching, in reaction to the RIP AMY comments there were reactionary snobs saying something like How can you even compare Janis and Amy Winehouse? I hate everything that's new and shiny and different and brightly lit!
Time will never stand still. Sure, I wish I could've seen a live performance by some of those greats, but I would be embarrassed later on if I didn't recognize greatness as I live right now. So I'm not saying that Amy Winehouse is great, but I am saying that Otis Redding died at 26. He's the sole member of the 26 club, and he performed with Hendrix and Joplin at the Monterey pop festival to a standing ovation, only becoming famous after his death in a plane crash with the song Sittin on the dock of the bay.
So is Otis Redding more a part of the 27 club because he was around in the same time period, or is Amy Winehouse, because she died at an arbitrary age? The answer is that neither, or any of them, is any less a part of music history than any of the others. Musicians die all the time for all kinds of reasons and it's always a terrible waste of talent and life. Or as The most important composer to come out of modern popular music put it:
"Music is good. It's the only religion that delivers the goods. And anyone who wants to hear any kind of music is entitled to because it's good for you. It makes you feel good. If you like it, go for it, just because I don't like it doesn't mean anything. It's a matter of personal taste." -Frank Zappa.