Amy Winehouse

Given the opportunity, I would listen to Amy Winehouse sing the statistics off the back of a stack of baseball cards. I will not get that opportunity, and so I will live with a certain sense of disappointment. After all, I will never get to hear her belt out the historiography papers I’ve written over the past year, the vast footnotes from a book like this, the owner’s manual for my very own car.

I would have listened to Amy Winehouse sing anything. She had that kind of voice: big and bold, yet fragile too. She could tell a story beyond lyrics, just through her phrasing or a well-placed snarl. She was damned good — a beehived badass — and she didn’t need couture or stage theatrics to be good. She just poured her heart out and let the rest take care of itself.

It did. She has the Grammys to prove it.

I remember when I heard her sing for the very first time. I was listening (just barely) to an Atlanta radio station, when I heard the opening notes of “Rehab” and wondered just what the hell was happening.

This was not packaged and vanilla stuff. It was from another era, it was edgy, it was catchy, it was…great. By the second refrain, my then two-year-old daughter was singing along with the “No, no, no” part. By the time the song was over, I called my mother and asked her whether she had heard of Amy Winehouse. After all, I hold my mother responsible for my love of R&B.

She had not heard of Amy Winehouse.

Within a week of that phone call, my mother and I owned our own copies of Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” every so often calling each other to say “Did you listen to this track? What did you think? Could you believe what she sang? Could you believe how she sang it? Yes, she’s racy, but don’t you love her? Yes, I love her too. Wow.”

Certain things overtook Amy and her talent. She has been likened in recent days to Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf, two chanteuses with similar demons. Although there is no official cause of death yet, some have been beating the addiction drum, placing the focus on that at the expense of this young woman’s remarkable gift. For all her public struggles (and there were many), I hope Amy Winehouse is remembered for her music, her toughness and her humor.

I hope she is remembered for this (a powerful acoustic cover of “Valerie” worth the click-through).

Check out this version, too:

But also this:

And this (these backup singers/dancers make what is already cool, cooler):

And finally, this:

RIP, Amy. RIP. You will be missed.