Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No, No, No

They tried to make me go to rehab/I said 'no, no, no.' Amy Winehouse got famous with those lyrics, which attest to the art of boisterous resistance. She isn’t the first artist capable of dramatizing the lure of oblivion. In fact, if one were to imagine non-being as an endless jump, with an equally endless but fading  echo, then a number of doomed poets—Plath, Berryman, Sexton—could be added to the chorus. Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan both displayed a particular braggadocio when it came to drink, and died from it. Winehouse has now earned membership in the so-called 27 Club, consisting of rock greats Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, who were drawn by the Sirens’ deathly lure. Add to this Frankie Lymon, who died of a drug overdose, and Billie Holiday, who died of cirrhosis.In Winehouse’s demise, there were the ususal omens,  among them the failed concerts and the turbulent marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil. Self destruction is its own myth. It’s also a story the public never seems to tire of. But artists who dramatize their own lives are like adolescents playing chicken, continually upping the ante in a kind of narcissistic megalomania that convinces them that they will be the exception to a self -fulfilling prophecy. In comedy you had Lenny Bruce, John Belushi and later Chris Farley. Keith Richards remains the exception. He may have outdone everyone on the list when it came to drink and dry goods. Few would deny that he’s  one of the most daring highwire acts of all time. And he’s lived to write a bestseller about it, ironically called Life.

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