A Lesson from the 27 Club

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July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse is dead.

It’s a tragedy to be sure. We saw her self-destruct before our very eyes since, well… since she broke out. As of this writing, the cause of death is unknown, but my money is on her becoming another casualty of too successful and no way to deal with the pressure.

She’s not the first member of the infamous 27 Club, and I doubt she will be the last.

But the rest of us writers, singers, composers, and artists need to be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking this was inevitable. As artists, we already have a reputation as loners, weirdoes, and self-absorbed misanthropes. We don’t need the world thinking that we need the sweet release of cold death to make us go out in a blaze of glory.

That’s what creation is for.

Amy, Amy, Amy by ~Shinne on deviantART

There’s a misconception that real art is indefinable. That a tortured artist is the truest type of artist, a man or a woman who creates something no one truly understands because they lack the artist’ genius, is the stereotype many attribute to our community. That being said, most people really don’t understand art. I’ve written about this on MANY occasions.

But the point I’m trying to make in this little rant is that if you create something no one gets and you see this as proof of your genius, you’re not a genius. If your art doesn’t speak to SOMEONE, it didn’t do its job. Art does not exist in a vacuum. If you do happen to create something that touches millions, something that says or shows something we haven’t seen before, the pressure to perform and create something better can be overwhelming. I’ve been there. The urge to create clashing with the need to perform can turn anyone into a quivering pile of humanity.

That being said, I would appreciate it if people stopped drinking themselves to death or shooting their brains out because they feel they can’t even try.

RIP Amy Winehouse by ~MissRoxyMFC on deviantART

You know what? Art is hard. If the next attempt isn’t as good, is it still good on its own? I recently heard one of my friends say that everything the Red Hot Chili Peppers made after their drug years was crap because it wasn’t as good as their early stuff. That’s a matter of taste between the funk and thrash of early RHCP and later, more melodic music, but it shows the kind of mentality that we adopt when we rate things based on a curve.

Did Winehouse kill herself over the need to be something larger than she was? As of now, I don’t know. If she did, it’s a tragedy, not only because a talented artist is gone, but because we have another example of an artist who, instead of stepping up to the plate and at least trying, went on a slow suicide binge.

And even if it was just an overdose and an accident, I’m still mad at her.

Oh well. Let’s remember (relatively) happier times.


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