When she was alive, you ridiculed her. You disparaged the manner in which she lived and in which she expressed herself. If you were being charitable, you might have said, "Wow, she's got some serious pipes. It's too bad that she has to embarrass herself like that."

You filled up Reddit threads and your Tumblrs with easy potshots rather than comprehending that she was the kind of singer who came along once in a lifetime. "Am I the only one who thinks she looks like a crack whore?" reads a TMZ comment (first sentence in the post from ostensible professional: "It's not easy making your hairdo look like it was done by a drunk Detroit hairdresser in 1967!!") from 2007. http://www.tmz.com/2007/07/18/building-the-beehive-with-amy-winehouse/

Or how about this Perez Hilton post, in which Hilton offered these childish doodles: "Watch out for that crack!" "Crack?! Where?!" http://perezhilton.com/2010-02-02-amy-winehouse-never-disappoints

Now Amy Winehouse is dead. She was only 27.

Right now, aside from considering a future in which there will be no new Amy Winehouse songs, in which we will not see an artist who got through to people evolve, I'm wondering how many of these online cracks contributed to Winehouse's inability to get the help she clearly needed. You could argue that it was ultimately Winehouse's choice to live the way that she did. On the other hand, I'm wondering why some of the thoughtless scumbags I've quoted above -- especially the ones who didn't have the guts to use their real names -- felt an overwhelming need to do their bit to take down a first-rate talent who got through to people almost solely on the basis for how she lived. I've become increasingly convinced that our present epoch faces some overwhelming need to condemn someone for how they say something, as opposed to what they say or how they make you feel.

Here's who Amy Winehouse was to me. Someone who inspired about ten girls, all sweating and sitting on a stoop during a very hot August afternoon in New York, to sing "Rehab" in unison. A person who defiantly dressed the way that she did and who experienced wrath for not fitting into neat little labels. An amazing, once-in-a-lifetime performer who we needed to keep going with our encouragement, but who ultimately succumbed -- as so many have in the past -- with the complicity of capitalist bullshit and the anonymous bullies who don't seem to understand how they uphold these malicious market forces with their needless ridicule -- the same kind of vapid "it's not what they say but how they say it" position that we see in middlebrow form from the vastly overrated Geoff Dyer in this week's New York Times Book Review.


Artists, whether successful or just getting by, don't have it easy. And if you're not an artist, it's just as easy to love an artist as it is to ridicule one. So why do so many who style themselves "critics" or "champions of art" feel compelled to carry on doing nothing but the latter?
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