Once upon a time, I was an avid reader of Mark Morford. His refreshingly honest writing style & often on point commentary on society and pop culture made me a fan the very first time I read one of his articles on SFGate.com. My fandom ended in March of 2007 when he wrote an article entitled "Let's All Go to Rehab!" The post was a gleeful protestation of the idea of rehab. Who was Morford's #1 example for why sobriety wasn't important or at least very helpful? It was Amy Winehouse, who in 2007 was leading the music world in a fabulous revival of soul inspired pop.
In the article, Morford discusses Winehouse's first breakout single "Rehab", a song about not going to rehab despite those around her thinking she needed to. It was a great song to dance to and I can't blame Morford for getting caught up in such a wildly wonderful pop song. And I can even understand why those who wish to rebel against those who try to enforce good behavior would find such lyrics as "they tried to make me go to rehab and I said no no no" nothing short of a triumphant call for freedom. Morford referred to Amy's real life stint in rehab and how she left before finishing treatment as going on her "own merry crazysexy way." He goes on to say:
"Then she started drinking again, almost immediately, without actually giving much of a damn, and has on her backstage concert rider the mandatory requirement that she be supplied with two bottles of good red wine in her dressing room every night. Mmm, wine."
Like Morford in his article, I do not believe rehab works for everyone. Nor do I believe there is one way to be sober or soberish. Just because something works for one or maybe even many, doesn't mean it would have worked for her. Obviously rehab didn't work for her and that's fine. What upset me about Morford's article was the dismissal of how sick Ms. Winehouse was. Yes she did go on to have a phenomenal album... but sadly that was the beginning and the end. Her life, as a human, as a being for goodness sake, clearly had little joy or true authenticity. Her "happy languid sexy self-destruction" was neither happy or sexy. It was depressing and deadly. Whatever other gifts she could have offered the world, musical or otherwise, stopped when she continued abusing mood altering substances.
Not everyone who tries drugs or alcohol becomes an addict. And yeah some people absolutely can as Morford noted "pour a mean cocktail and not take it all so damned seriously" but Winehouse was not well and I think those that praised her illness missed an opportunity. Rebellion is fine when we take the time to make sure we don't simply set the world (and ourselves) on fire, just because we can or because it's perceived to be cool. True rebellion is having the strength to endure no matter how shitty others are to us. Real rebellion is living with those days that are unbearably grey and surviving to help others live through them too. Honest and powerful rebellion shares the gifts that come through us and doesn't stop even in the face of low self esteem, addiction, heartbreak and tragedy. Rebellion takes the time to make sure it is really and truly, inside its heart, free.
Amy Winehouse died. Regardless of what the autopsy says, we all know what killed her. Self destruction, addiction, illness. Those that did try to make her go to rehab all those years ago knew something that apparently Mark Morford & so many others didn't in 2007. That Ms. Winehouse needed help & love & people to hold her accountable. She needed this not just for her own well being but for her art and for our chance to take part in what could have been her true, real & honest rebellion. Yes Mark, she was our perfect American model. Let's hope for our own sake we get a new one.
Rest in peace Amy!