Preacher’s Kid: Honest Faith, Real World

The late Amy Winehouse

I never heard but a snippet, here and there, of an Amy Winehouse song.

But I’d see her on the news, being led to some courtroom, her latest stint in rehab or staggering at a concert, forgetting lyrics and being booed off stage. I’d shake my head — another pop star/celebrity train wreck waiting to happen.

Too easy, isn’t it, to not see a lost, sad little girl? If that was my daughter up on that stage, that is who I would see. But we judge, too quickly, these talented but flawed human beings by what pop culture shows us — the concert clips, the few seconds of court appearances, the rushed entries or exits from a drug-treatment facility, the jail booking mugshots.

Who saw the little girl who loved to hear her father, London taxi cab driver Mitchell Winehouse, sing her Sinatra songs? What of the school girl who could not stop from bursting out in song, much to the dismay of her teachers?

Do we see the 13-year-old who picked up a guitar and, a year later, was writing songs? Forget, for a moment, the multiple Grammy awards she would later earn; first, she was that little girl with a boatload of talent and soul that had to sing.

On Saturday, Amy Winehouse was found dead at her London home. The official cause of death has yet to be determined. Of course, given her history of drug abuse, speculation is overwhelmingly pointing that direction. She had reportedly had other health problems, too, including an iregular heartbeat and emphysema.

She was, in a case of dark irony, 27 years old. Irony because even in death, her humanity must shoulder another burden of show biz hype: the so-called “27 Club.”

These are popular musicians who shared troubled lives, and not living beyond their 27th birthday. Uniformly, they had stellar careers and, ultimately, final desperate days. Brian Jones, the founder of the Rolling Stones, reportedly drowned in 1969 after binging on booze and drugs; a year later Jimi Hendrix, a gifted and still unrivaled guitarist, died after mixing wine and sleeping pills; that same year Janis Joplin, whose raspy, bluesy vocals spoke to a generation, succumbed to heroin; in 1971, the Doors’ Jim Morrison, a 2-3 bottles a day whiskey drinker, died of heart failure; Kurt Cobain lead singer for Nirvana,, died in 1994 of a self-inflicted shotgun blast.

And now, Amy Winehouse joins that tragic  club. I wonder if she ever heard of something her 27 Club predecessor, Morrison, said: “There are things known, and things unknown. And in between are the Doors.” If not, bet you she knew it, anyway.

What all the members of 27 Club had in common was their ability to share pain through their music. Their lyrics were, while often disturbing and profane, painfully honest.

Oh, I know not a few of my Christian co-religionists will say these dead pop culture icons also have something else in common: hell. I don’t know about that, and neither do you. I won’t put God — or His compassion and love — in a box.

Jesus put it this way: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:2 KJV). Moses heard a similar theme: “(I) will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” (Exodus 33:19 KJV).

So, I’m not going to judge. First, it seems clear that those who practice mercy receive it. And, there’s this exchange from a favorite film, Unforgiven. True as scripture are the sentiments spoken by Clint Eastwood’s character, Will Munny:

“It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”
The Schofield Kid: “Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.”
“We all got it coming, kid.”

So, there’s Truth, from sources holy and secular. Here, from some of Amy Winehouse’s hits, is some more truth . . . sad and perhaps prophetic:

“Don’t make any difference if I end up alone, I’d rather have myself a smoke my homegrown.” (from the song Addicted)

“I can’t help it, need to stop it, All that I put myself through, Everyone is so denying, Yeah, it’s nice to meet you, too.” (Alcoholic)

“We only said goodbye with words, I died a hundred times, You back to her, And I go back to black.” (Back to Black)

“I don’t ever wanna drink again, I just, ooh, I just need a friend.” (Rehab)


**Blog post mortem: Autopsy and toxicology results were inconclusive as to cause of feath for Amy Winehouse, though no illicit drugs, and reportedly only a moderate amount of alcohol were found in her system.)

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