I'm not a fan of much modern popular music. Whatever messages some of it seek to convey are lost on me. Maybe I've just become my parents and simply am stuck in the 'good ol' days' - I'll own up to the possibility.
That being said, the death of Amy Winehouse touched me. To say that it reminded me of the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, is not original. Many of my generation considered them to be geniuses. They lived tragically short lives, dying as did Winehouse at 27. And all had personal lives which exuded unhappiness, confusion and excess.
I don't know if its fair to compare Winehouse's music with that of Hendrix, Joplin or Morrison. Nor am I sure that her celebrity can be compared to theirs. As near as I can discern, theirs was a different time and their music fit into that culture in ways that were different as well.
It is a shame, however, that we lose artists like this so early.Winehouse, Joplin, Morrison or Hendrix are not the only entertainers to die young and be hailed as masters of their crafts. One can talk of Charlie Parker, Sam Cook, Kirk Cobain, Billie Holiday and James Dean. We live our lives wondering what they could have accomplished and comparing the latest 'genius' with works whose value is frozen in time.
It's difficult to imagine what Jimi Hendrix have done with an electric guitar by age 68 (the age he would be today). What else would we have heard from Hank Williams had we not lost him so young? Or how would Bix Beiderbecke (catch Ken Burns' 'Jazz' documentary) had he not self destructed at age 28? What would Tupac or Big E Smalls become had their evolution both as people and artist not been cut short?
Maybe the lesson every generation learns from these gifted young people is the fragile nature of life. No amount of talent, fame or money can exempt any of us from the importance of treating every moment of life as a gift and a trust. We should enjoy it, be we can't waste it in self indulgence, self pity, or fear. I hope that there are more than a few who learn that lesson. Sometimes we think that there is something romantic and glorious about shining brightly and burning out clearly. But not really, not when it doesn't have to happen. The only thing that happens is that those of us who are left behind forge ahead wondering 'What if...?' It's a question we'd rather not have to ask...