With Amy Winehouse's funeral over, her death almost seems like a hazy dream that could not have possibly happened. The outspoken force of nature released just two albums during her short lifetime, and yet her impact on music is indelible. Five years after Back to Black came out, Winehouse was still making headlines with her various antics--another case in point of an artist's personal life eclipsing her music.
Even though police officials and toxicology reports have yet to reveal what Winehouse's undoing was, those close to her say that she was finally starting to get her life back on track again (she was focused on promoting the music of her goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield, she was in a much healthier relationship with Reg Traviss, and had even started an exercise regime). Still, Winehouse is one of the many examples of a person who wants to change but cannot. With innumerable vices to choose from, it is difficult to imagine her surrendering all of them in favor of a completely wholesome life.
While fans, friends, and family have often blamed Winehouse's ex-husband and inspiration for most of Back to Black, Blake Fielder-Civil, Winehouse was a sensitive and deeply emotional being who used the implements of destruction around her to numb the pain she felt when it came to her relationships.
The fact that Winehouse garnered fame so quickly and at such a young age may also have served to compound her appetite for self-flagellation. She came across as the type of person who never felt she was good enough. And with the expectations mounting for her to create an album as appealing and acclaimed as Back to Black, there is no doubt that the pressure was getting to her.
In 2009, Winehouse retreated to the island of St. Lucia, where she began recording songs with Frank producer Salaam Remi. Island Records announced that a new album would be released in 2010. Winehouse, however, was once again derailed by the distraction of her divorce from Fielder-Civil and a new dalliance with an unknown actor named Josh Bowman (Amy always went for the commoners, you see).
There were also rumors that Back to Black producer and friend Mark Ronson's patience was beginning to wear thin with Winehouse in the studio. Moreover, her notoriety for barely making it through live performances or just not showing up to them was starting to turn fans against her. It is no wonder, then, that Winehouse had remained under the radar for most of 2011 until the unwelcome news of her death.
Regardless of public opinion and speculation about the ways in which Winehouse's death might have been prevented, her legacy and contribution to music endures. Already, she is set to break several records on the Billboard charts, with Back to Black re-entering the top 20 again and three singles ("Rehab," "Tears Dry on Their Own," and "Back to Back") re-entering the charts on British soil. What is more, I get the sneaking suspicion that her label isn't going to just let all of that unreleased material from the Bahamas stay locked in the vault. So, Miss Winehouse, I raise my glass to you. Because I know you'll still be drinking on another plane. And that's one of the things I loved most about you: Your commitment to having a good time.