On Saturday morning, 23rd of July 2011, I stood over the tub in my bathroom, leaning over precariously towards the outside, cleaning the bathroom window. As a musical no-hoper, window-cleaning times or bath times often grant me a chance to sing freely, and on that day, I sang Valerie.
Half-way into my fairly decent rendition of that song, my wife who was in the kitchen joined me, and we sang the house to real great joy as we attended to our different chores. Then I wondered aloud, “Isn’t it strange how that song is not all over the place anymore?”
A few hours later, I was on the phone to my friend Afam Akeh and we were discussing the business of African Poetry. All of a sudden, he said, “Dianyi, you know Amy Winehouse is dead?”
I was momentarily lost for words. Then I asked simply, “When?” and he told me it was breaking news on TV right that moment.
I was very very sad, and when he said that her death was really not that unexpected, a sentiment that even Amy’s own mother expressed later, I excused myself to go turn on the TV.
After I had heard the news for myself, I said to my wife, using the title of my late mentor and friend Esiaba Irobi’s poem, “Do you know, it is indeed a ceramic life? Amy Winehouse is dead.”
Together we wondered what had killed her. Of course, like everyone else, we immediately suspected her demise could not be unrelated to drugs or alcohol. I also wondered if she may have topped herself. I was extremely sorry and felt disloyal to even think that, but I did. It is so very painful to learn of such a waste of beauty and talent. Maybe waste is not the right word, she, afterall left us with two wonderful albums to enjoy until we also go. She did something with her talent. What is however quite cruel is that like that other musical genius Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse managed to almost completely overshadow her genius with weirdness and allusions to drugs, alcohol and self-destruction. I couldn’t help thinking about the words of Edward Furlong, the young John Connor in Terminator 2, that says "Lots of money and lots of free coke will turn anyone into a cokehead."
Perhaps, something good that might come out of the untimely death of Amy Winehouse is that one, even if it is only one young person, in or out of the world of celebrity and entertainment, will shun drugs and reap the fullness of long life.
Goodnight Amy, I will always be a fan of yours. Goodnight.