Amy, My Daughter

This time next week, it will be the first anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s tragic death.

I’m not generally a particularly soft-hearted person, and although I have felt a tinge of sadness when a celebrity has died, I am not one of those to get all weepy and claim that I loved them, and that their very existence changed my life etc etc.

I remember it was late on a Saturday afternoon and I had been having a bit of a doze before going for a night over the pub, when I first saw the messages coming through on Twitter that she had died. I remember quickly turning on the news channels and flicking from Sky to BBC and back again. It was a story that felt inevitable and yet it was still shocking. She was just 27. She was amazingly talented.

I was stunned. I was even more surprised when I realised that I was crying. I sent a text to The Man who was already over the pub, and then I put my Back To Black album. Followed by Frank. I cried some more. Such a waste.

I also remember that there were a lot of people who tried to belittle her death as the day before had seen the absolutely shocking murders of 69 people by Anders Behring Breivik. Many people were posting on various social network sites saying things like, “Get it in perspective, this is one druggie girl as against a huge number of innocents!”

I found that particularly hard to deal with. Why did one have to be weighed up against the other? Why couldn’t people be upset about both events?

Personally, I think that the reason that Amy’s death struck a chord with me that day in a different way to the Norway murders was because the murders were just too catastrophic, sickening and difficult to even comprehend. Whereas the loss of a young, talented, troubled girl was far more easy to picture, understand and believe. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t as disgusted and shocked by the murders at all, and my heart went out to every one of the victims and their families – and those poor kids who will have to live with that memory for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, this is meant to be a review.

I got this from Audible as an audiobook. The foreward and the epilogue are narrated by Mitch himself, but it is understandable that he wouldn’t be able to read the rest of the book, so that is done by Rupert Farley – and he did a commendable job…I imagine he was picked because he sounds somewhat like Mitch, and he managed to read with what sounded like so much pride and emotion that during a lot of it, I forgot that it wasn’t Mitch!

This whole book is heart-wrenchingly full of love. You can feel it with every story. From Amy’s childhood, as a precocious, funny, impossible-to-teach child where she found school a bit of a bore, and longed to perform to her well-reported rise and subsequent fall and tragic end.

There were particular moments that must have been difficult for him to write – the time that she met Blake who he quickly realised was a bad influence on her and the moment he finally realised that Amy was actually doing Class A drugs and had a habit. This wasn’t any old father-daughter relationship, they were a tight-knit unit and not a day seemed to go by that he didn’t speak to her.

From the moment he realised she had a habit, he kept diaries and documented Amy’s life – the highs of Frank and Back to Black, various live performances and her Ivor Novello awards to the soul-destroying years of trying to get her to give up the drugs and her subsequent descent into alcoholism.

Hearing Mitch’s side of the various tabloid stories, Blake’s imprisonment, Amy’s stage-fright, the fights with Blake’s family and the fact that she had been off of Class A’s for three years before her death were quite eye-opening.

On the last day that I was listening to this, I was wandering around Camden (where I have worked for 5 years) and I took a different route to usual and walked past Amy’s old house while I was listening to Mitch telling the tale of when he found it for her – and it all just felt so poignant.

Everything feels laid bare, and I doubt if anyone could read this without wanting to give Mitch Winehouse a massive hug while they shed a few tears.