I was too 27 when I saw Amy Winehouse for my first and only time. The venue was the Bowery Ballroom, in New York City in 2007 when I was struggling to be a photographer then. I got a contact with the venue, who wanted me to photograph a British artist who was in town. The gig wasn’t paid, but I needed to pass them the pictures. I was just happy to be doing a gig.
I arrived at the venue earlier than everyone else, and waited on the dance floor. I had no idea who this artist was, but I was determined to do a good job so I could possibly secure future paid gigs with the venue. As the crowds started to form, I notice that the crowd was a middle aged, well dressed crowd. No Tshirts, no bermudas, but nice heels, dapper shirts and pants crowd. The lights went out, and she came out and sang. And sang she did. The crowd started dancing, the beer taps kept pouring, while I was in the crowd working my ass off for the gig.
She wasn’t having a direct rapport with the crowd, but the crowd was clearly enamoured with her. As I photographed away, I was slowly enchanted by this strange, eccentric but clearly a performer in her element. I asked one of the audience, ‘Who is she?’
‘You don’t know who she is? She’s Amy Winehouse. She is currently the biggest star in Europe’
‘She is new in New York. The rest of America will know her very soon.’
Looking back on that day, I was witnessing one of the greatest lost singers of our generation. While her performance was clearly a glimpse of what made her the superstar she was in the rest of the world very soon, her troubles with drugs was also apparant that very night. As her set went by, her singing also became slurred, her swaying reminicent of the many incidences caught over the internet where she appeared either drunk or very drugged out.
She was a genius in her own right, but she passed on too soon. Rest in Peace, Amy.
26 July 2011