Amy Winehouse’s death was another one of those moments, one of those ‘where were you’ moments, where it suddenly becomes important to be somewhere terribly exotic to receive such news. Somewhere romantic or vaguely ironic, like a club the recently deceased had played at, or the area they’d grown up in. The truly stylish were probably hooting on a crack pipe as the news came in.
So, what is it about the poor lost souls that die at twenty-seven? Not such a tender age, and yet nowhere near old enough. Is it the age, or the lifestyle, the fame? Is it the same feelings of waste and pointlessness that we get when a school child gets run over? No, I don’t think so.
I’m not going to debate whether Winehouse was talented, because I think it’s obvious she had something. Something about her that was enough to keep people thinking about her, even when she hadn’t released any new material since 2006.
People are enjoying debating about whether she deserved it, with the lifestyle she lead. About whether she was a talentless washout, an addict, who brought it on herself, and woop-di-do, there’s one less addict in the world. Those people, clearly, need to shut up. Because the people who say things like that usually have a dead wife under the floor boards or a severely underfed gimp in the cupboard. People don’t deserve anything. I mean, okay, when a raging psychopath murderer gets killed, I’m not exactly going to cry some crocodile tears, but let’s get a bit of perspective here. Being a party girl is not ‘asking for it’.
But none of this really answers why we’re so fascinated by these beautiful, barely here people who shone briefly in our presence and then were suddenly gone. Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, all gone at the age of 27, still at the height of their popularity in most cases. No time to continue their careers, produce a disappointing album, watch as they became more commercial or their brilliance simply started to fade. No chance to hear everything about them every week in Heat or OK.
A Jeff Buckley quote feels most appropriate here:
Too young to hold on, too old to just break free and run.
The twenty-seven club are stuck in between the first flash of brilliance and the gradual dimming and ageing, not only a natural process in life but in fame. The real reason we’re so shocked to see them go? We love to tear them apart. We want them around so we can scoff at the latest album, comment on how drugs clearly don’t hate the creative process, how she should have gone to rehab. We wanted Cobain to go corporate, James Dean to get fat and ugly, we wanted to watch them age and decay the same as the rest of us. And they escape that. A few beautiful pictures, a sad news story and the occasional ‘Aw, what a shame’ whenever they’re mentioned again. The twenty-seven club have been frozen in time, as both the best and worst of themselves, never to fade away. And we hate them for it.