12 Years Later, We're Still Dishonoring Amy Winehouse

Lisa Whittington-Hill at the Walrus contrasts Winehouse's reputation with that of Kurt Cobain
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2023 8:30 AM CDT
12 Years Later, We're Still Dishonoring Amy Winehouse
British singer Amy Winehouse poses for a photograph in 2007.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

Amy Winehouse died 12 years ago this month at 27, done in by her addictions. The same was true of Kurt Cobain. But in a piece at the Walrus comparing the way the two are remembered, Lisa Whittington-Hill makes the case that we have done a disservice to Winehouse. To be clear, Whittington-Hill is a huge admirer of Cobain and his musical talent. But the narrative surrounding his death is vastly different. "Addiction comes up frequently in the context of Cobain, both when he was alive and after his death, but he was treated as a passive participant in his drug use," she writes. Journalists bought into his excuses and spread them: "He used heroin because of the pressures of fame, because of stomach problems, because he hated his bandmates and the music industry." Winehouse, on the other hand—well, she was just seen as a mess.

She "was vilified, blamed, and mocked for her addiction, and this treatment continues 12 years after her death," writes Whittington-Hill. The obituaries for the two are telling. Cobain was the "hesitant poet" of grunge rock, as the New York Times put it. By contrast, the Los Angeles Times obituary for Winehouse "helped set the tone about how she's remembered today, noting her 'gaunt and ill-kempt' appearances, her 'run-ins with the police, missed or aborted shows and struggles with addictions,'" along with her stays at clinics for psychiatric and drug problems. The irony is that Winehouse with her prodigious talent was the "Nirvana moment" for a slew of unconventional female artists, from Adele to Florence and the Machine, as an editor at Spin puts it. Whittington-Hill wishes we focused more on that—her "impact on music"—and gave Winehouse her proper due. Read the full story. (Or check out other Longforms.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.