NEW YORK — With the death of Amy Winehouse on Saturday at age 27 — joining the ranks of drug-addled rock stars Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison, who died at the same age — perhaps now people will be able look past her song Rehab, her biggest hit from the album Back to Black.
Perhaps now we can appreciate her for what she was — a dazzling, versatile singer blessed with a mind that produced lyrics that were coarse, hilarious, heartbreaking and revelatory, and always spellbinding.
Just as Ms. Winehouse was so much more than a drug addict, her music was so much more — and richer — than Rehab.
Certainly, it was the song that made her a worldwide sensation — it also captured her record and song of the year at the Grammys in 2008. But the former teen celebrity came into her own as an artist a few years before, with the 2003 album Frank. Whereas Back to Black relied heavily on a retro, 1960s soul groove, Frank hearkened to an even earlier time. On the album, she enveloped a world inhabited by jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, yet decidedly modern.
Musically, Ms. Winehouse delivered. Back to Black was considered one of the best albums of the year, and will likely be considered as one of the best of her generation.
Delving into her own warped mind-set, the album chronicled her troubled romantic life and the despair over it with sultry brilliance.
Ms. Winehouse's life ends with no chance for another act: She becomes yet another cautionary tale that some will follow, and others choose to ignore.
But like Hendrix, Joplin, Michael Jackson, Judy Garland and other celebrities with tragic downfalls, her musical legacy — though ever so brief — will live on.