Questions on the Death of Winehouse

By Michael Kaufman

I don’t remember precisely how this aging Baby Boomer found his way to the music of Amy Winehouse. Maybe my daughter Molly suggested I listen (like she did with Ani DeFranco and Tracy Chapman).  I always pay attention when my kids tell me about music they like because—as I learned from my own father—it works both ways.  I still remember the Father’s Day when pop agreed to listen to Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father”…. and I opened my ears to his favorite Beethoven symphony. 

After opening my ears to Winehouse I bought her CDs and had been expectantly awaiting a new release said to be coming soon. Now there will be only the obligatory memorial album and perhaps a “best of” or two with some previously unreleased material thrown in to boost sales.

But the thing that bothers me most about her death at age 27 is that everybody in the world could see it coming.  It was impossible not to see. Video clips of her stumbling, pathetic, incoherent performances in Jamaica and Belgrade were all over the internet. It was just a matter of time before she would self destruct. 

My question is why was it allowed to happen?

Of course she had famously sung a resounding “no” to rehab. But how can someone who has a substance-abuse problem make a rational decision about entering rehab? Shouldn’t they first go through detoxification and then decide?  Am I missing something or isn’t this a “Catch-22” situation? Was there nothing her parents and others who loved her dearly could do? (Whatever happened to having someone committed?)

Maybe Bob Gaydos, my colleague at Zest who often writes excellent articles about addiction and recovery, can shed some light on this.  And perhaps among our readers there are professionals who would like to comment. Please do, either in the space below or via email. And of course feel free to add your thoughts even if you are no more informed than I am.

Meanwhile, for any fellow Boomers who may be wondering what I heard in Winehouse, here are links to a few of my favorites. The first two are her own edgy compositions (and please note that they include language some may find offensive). The last is a lovely–and now even more poignant–rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

And in case you were wondering, Pop’s favorite Beethoven symphony (and now mine too) was the Ninth.

Michael can be reached at

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3 Responses to “Questions on the Death of Winehouse”

  1. Leanne Says:

    Mr Kaufman,

    I just want to say that you must be a very lucky man to obviously not have been personally touched by the horrors and pain of a loved one suffering from the nightmare of addiction to say things like;
    “Why was this ALLOWED to happen?” and “Was there nothing her parents and others that loved her could do? Whatever happened to having someone committed?”

    I am glad that you welcome comments as I usually do not reply to things of this nature, but I am constantly amazed at the ignorance that still exists in our world with this topic. Shame STILL touches so much of the topics of addiction and mental health. Education and open communication is key. Thank you for your post/writings. If just one unfortunate death can even teach ONE person that there life has not been for naught.

    RIP to Amy and the other troubled that remain.
    There is always help available..and there is always HOPE.

    thank you…

  2. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Thank you, Leanne. I appreciate your comment and await further enlightenment on the subject.

  3. JK Says:

    First of all, Song for My Father is one of my favorites too. As for AW, I think we can’t be paternalistic. She was an adult, she gets to make her own decisions. Danger to self, yes. To others, no. But she was an autonomous human being. We don’t get to make her decisions for her. Maybe as a father with daughters,
    you see things differently. Maybe her parents should have been more proactive, but we (her public), let alone legions of therapists, social workers, counselors, etc., don’t have a legal or ethical leg to stand on without consent.

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