By Gerrick D. Kennedy
Los Angeles Times.
In June 2011, Amy Winehouse performed in Serbia for what would be her final concert.
By then Winehouse’s struggles with drugs and alcohol had made her a punchline for late-night hosts and a choice target for gossip rags and relentless paparazzi. Kicking off what was supposed to be a European tour, the Belgrade show is remembered only for showing how far she had unraveled.
As seen a gripping new documentary, “Amy,” from director Asif Kapadia, Winehouse is disheveled, erratic and obviously inebriated. Eyes heavily glazed, she stumbles through much of her performance and slurs whatever lyrics she remembers. As the crowd angrily boos and shouts for her to sing, a defeated Winehouse is seen seated behind her band, seemingly disconnected to her surroundings.
A month later she was dead from alcohol poisoning at age 27.
The film is an intimate, unflinching gaze into the perils of celebrity and addiction and how Winehouse, who was already fragile from a troubled upbringing, fed off the two.
But aside from tracing her life, “Amy” also offers unparalleled insight into how her short discography reveals a road map to her troubles and pain.
Maybe it’s because her rise to fame and tragic death were so close together, or maybe because her struggles were so public they grew to overshadow her music, but Winehouse isn’t often revered as a trailblazer. But she was.
Had it not been for Winehouse, it’s unlikely Americans would have embraced the heart-wrenching throwback soul of fellow Grammy winners Adele and Sam Smith. Her producer, Mark Ronson, probably wouldn’t have reached the same heights with this year’s chart-topping Bruno Mars collaboration, “Uptown Funk,” and we may have never seen the surge of British pop-soul artists on the charts, including Jessie Ware, Jessie J and James Blake.