A Dying Breed

I wasn’t to going to say anything about the death of Amy Winehouse. I can’t imagine any greater pain than burying a child, especially one you’ve watched digging her own grave. But then this morning I read what happened last night in the street outside her house.

I suppose it could be called a wake, in the same loose sense that the collection of stuff people have been leaving there might be called a shrine: packs of cigarettes and bottles of booze among the cellophane-wrapped flowers. When the cremation was over and her family had withdrawn into their private grief, her fans staged a street party, so noisy and messy the police were called to break it up. Because what more fitting way is there to mourn the death of a young woman ravaged by drink and drugs than to get hammered on her very doorstep?

Seeing the images of last night made me realise there has been something in the reporting of her death and the eulogies of her short life that I didn’t like, and it goes something like this  –  tragic end, blah blah, pain of genius, blah blah, burned by the sun, blah blah, and where would we dreary, sober, suburban types be without rebels like Amy to hell-raise  on our behalf?

Was there ever a more bogus figure than the Romantic Drunk? Don’t talk to me about Dylan Thomas. If he’d laid off the Scotch he would have lived to give us more of his great talent. Likewise Scott Fitzgerald. Drunks are tedious. Also ruthless, devious and self-pitying. My experience of drug users is more limited but wide enough to know that all of the above applies and, if it goes on for long enough, you can add ‘paranoid’ and ‘deluded’ to the list.

The people who partied last night were mainly young. They may grow in wisdom. Some day they may see a daughter or son of their own heading in the wrong direction and wonder that they ever saw anything heroic in losers like Pete Doherty. In the meanwhile, I hope some counter-drink -culture journalist will track down the person who left that bottle of Malibu at the Winehouse shrine and ask them, ‘Why?’

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