Yesterday, July 23, 2011, the talented British singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse was found dead of currently unknown causes. It will not take long for a movie to be made of her short and tragic life, making her out to be a contemporary version of Janis Joplin, a soulful woman with immense talent but also deeply self-destrutive tendancies involving drugs, eating disorders, and co-dependent relationships with the wrong type of men. Certainly such a story is not unique, but it is tragic nonetheless.
As far as her own musical work is concerned, Amy Winehouse leaves a legacy of two successful albums, Frank and Back In Black along with one big hit, “Rehab,” a hit that grows more tragic with each listen, along with the minor hit, “You Know I’m No Good.” In fact, she was good, very good in fact, at writing soulful and witty and frank songs about herself and her own life. Perhaps she saw herself too well and could not bear it, and so she sought a refuge in alcohol and drugs. If so, it, like love, was a losing game. At any rate, her gift for writing catchy and self-mocking songs will earn her lasting memory, and her success as a genuine, if genuinely troubled, musician opened the door for soulful and confessional British singers like Duffy and Adele, whose material is not dissimilar. To give but one example, the Adele hit “Rolling In The Deep” appears to have deep drug references that mirror the destructive elements in Amy Winehouse’s own life.
Amy Winehouse’s immense talent made her a star. She was captivated by music from a very early age , specifically (and dangerously) the music of the 1960’s, with its drug-induced haze and rebelliousness. Long before she was famous her talent and honesty gave her the respect of seasoned music industry veterans. In turn, she ended up becoming massively successful and won many awards for her songs. But fame seemed to give her more demons than she could handle—and as her career progressed her addictions to drug and alcohol and her frail physical health (probably as the result of eating disorders and drug use) led to canceled concerts, angry fans upset that she could not remember the lyrics to her own songs, and to numerous breaks to sort her life out. All of this she was unable to do, dying at the age of 27, far too soon.
Amy Winehouse swam with the sharks and was eaten alive. She saw her own demons—she sang about them in witty and beautiful songs, but she was unable to defeat them. People will point to her fate and talk about how it could have been seen ahead of time (which is undoubtedly true), and mutter cliches about how nothing is more common than wasted talent, but I think they are missing the deeper point. The ultimately futile struggles of Amy Winehouse are a reminder that our culture is deeply troubled and ultimately self-destructive. We are all affected by that culture, whether as creative people trying to fulfill our muse without destroying ourselves, or whether we are mere consumers of the creativity of others. No doubt shows like Access Hollywood and TMZ will show many photos of the balding Winehouse, treat her like Marilyn Monroe, and no doubt people will make tribute albums to her, sing her cover songs, and both mourn and profit from her passing. But let us not forget to look in the mirror, because she is not the first immensely talented artist to be destroyed by her gifts in our demented culture, and she will certainly not be the last. We must all examine ourselves so that we can avoid the same fate.
But that is not the end of the story. For there is a bizarre connection between the death of Amy Winehouse, famous singer (and drug addict) and the vastly more obscure Jennifer Elliott. Who is Jennifer Elliott? She was the ex-girlfriend of Andrew Spooner, an excellent writer whose work I read often on Asian Correspondent (and who has a lot of insightful commentary on Thailand and its politics). She was the daughter of a British Oscar-nominated actor who died of AIDS in 1992 (make of that what you will). She was also a drug addict whose addiction led her into frequent forays into prostitution, and eventually to a suicide driven by a corrupt newspaper related to Rupert Murdoch.
Yesterday, in a rather surprising move, Malat (La Nunan) our erstwhile Burmese translator who has left the employ of Legacy Institute and gone on to other pursuits, gave a brief sermonette talking about the British Hackgate scandal  and relating it to Proverbs 16. In part of this scandal, a corrupt policeman was bribed to gave information about Jennifer Elliott’s arrest for prostitution to a reporter who worked for the British News of the World, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps Empire. The editor of the newspaper at the time was Andy Coulson, who is British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former Director of Communications. Jennifer, humiliated by the tabloids hounding her for her own sins (she was, no doubt, driven too by her own demons), committed suicide. But she didn’t jump; she was pushed.
That scandal has gotten Rupert Murdoch, most famous in the United States for his ownership of Fox News, the supposed gospel source of information for conservatives, involved in an ugly trial in Great Britain. Here we see the connection: two young people connected with fame, two ultimately unsuccessful struggles with addiction and a demented culture that seeks to drive people to their deaths by hounding them without mercy and then using them sanctimoniously as morality tales for political and personal profit. Such behavior is despicable and without honor. Whatever human courts will decide, a heavenly court will find people like Murodch and his underlings, and those who behave like him, far more culpable than those damaged and fragile souls driven to self-destruction. In the meantime, let us not ourselves fall prey to such sharks and vultures ourselves. For we have been warned.
 http://asiancorrespondent.com/60648/hackgate-how-the-news-of-the-world-and-a-corrupt-policeman-drove-my-ex-girlfriend-to-her-death/ [Sorry, this was a valid link when I posted the blog entry, but it is now a dead link and I don’t know where the valid link is anymore. :(]
Very well said my friend.
I’m glad you appreciate.
I knew Jennifer Elliott during the time that I was living in the UK, which was 1979-1984.
The Jennifer I knew was a lovely person who was kind and generous, and always had time to help and listen to others. I met Jennifer through a mutual friend, and a small group of us just enjoyed hanging out together, watching movies, listening to music, having a drink, and talking.
She was already starting to develop a problem with heroin even then, and one couldn’t help but fear that things might not end well for her.
It is really sickening to think that in addition to the problems she was having, she also had to deal with the vultures from NOTW.
You are missed Jennifer, and my memories and thoughts of you will always be of your smile, and of sunnier times under bright skies.
I’m not English, and I never knew Jennifer Elliott at all myself (I would have been a little too young for your crowd anyway). But the thought that people like Murdoch and his henchmen at News of the World would torment a troubled young woman for economic profit and political gain (to benefit “Conservative” causes by discrediting celebrities) through breaking the law and taking advantage of corrupt police officials is completely outrageous. I am glad that Jennifer has so many friends who remember her for who she is. Did you know Andrew Spooner–it was his writing about Jennifer (whom he dated for a while in 1992) that led me to look at the whole News of the World Scandal in the first place, which is not something that has gotten a lot of press attention as far as Americans are concerned, despite the popularity of Fox’s television empire there in the States.
No, I didn’t know Andrew but I am familiar with his writings concerning the NOTW.
One thing that vultures like the NOTW can’t take away is your memories of a lovely friend and good times spent.
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Reading this post over two years later, your comments and observations about the media’s destructive role in corrupting the culture seems more apt than ever. Thank you for also sharing information on another side of Hackgate that I was unaware of until this post.
Thanks for your comments. Though I would have written the post a bit more elegantly had I had more time, I still agree with its sentiments and wouldn’t change its tone a bit even now. I still find it upsetting, and given the fact that this blog entry is by far the most popular one I have ever written, it appears that a lot of others feel the same way.
I knew Jeniffer she was a true friend of both my brother and myself.
U r missed Jenifer u helped me as a 15 year old runaway by simply being a friend who did care in a world which didn’t
The more I have heard of this story the more I loathe the way that the News of the World hunted a sensitive young woman to the grave. Thanks for sharing your memories of Jennifer.
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