Ultimately, Winehouse’s death was an accident, albeit one that seemed tragically inevitable. She’s been posthumously humanized more than most with the help of her family, and, any controversy aside, projects like the 2015 Oscar-winning documentary Amy—which her parents, who participated in this summer’s BBC Two documentary Reclaiming Amy, have disavowed.
“She chose her own path, we have suffered from the trolls and the damaging speculation—accusations that Mitch just wants to make money off of his daughter, that we killed her, that we could have done more—it’s completely wrong,” Janis wrote in OK! “But addiction is a mental illness and that is the true villain in this story, I’ve studied addiction and I understand that now.”
Yet while the appreciation for Winehouse’s musical output is endless, we’re also left with an even greater sense of just how unfairly preordained her death turned out to be. Fans adored her music and wanted more from her. But at the same time, people also ended up expecting her to implode—almost in a cartoonish, TV-death sort of way, as no one was actually hoping that would happen—and then she did. Her 27-year-old body couldn’t take it anymore.
The unhappy ending people expected is exactly what they got.
Winehouse propagated her own myth of the irreparably damaged artist from the beginning, telling The Guardian in 2006, “If you’re a musician and you have things you want to get out, you write music. You don’t want to be settled, because when you’re settled you might as well call it a day.”
So we’ll never know if Amy Winehouse would have eventually realized that the two didn’t have to be mutually exclusive, that perhaps one day she too could be “settled” without creative consequence. In the meantime, she didn’t suffer for her art so much as figure that, since she was suffering, she may as well make art.
She told E! News in 2007 that she didn’t care if she was getting a reputation for being difficult, or that her personal life was making headlines. “I’m above it,” she said. “I really like my record, you know. I’m really proud of it. If 10 other people like it, I’m happy.”
(Originally published Sept. 14, 2018, at 3 a.m. PT)