Nancy C. Andreasen recalls in her article the popular notion that creativity is hereditary and "that genius appears to have a strong genetic component." This observation rings true as Winehouse had several uncles that were jazz musicians. Surrounded by music at a young age, she integrated stylings of Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Thelonious Monk into her own personal sound. These influences, in addition to the encouragement she received through music education, propelled her into a multi-platinum career.
Winehouse's debut album Frank (2003) earned her two BRIT awards, an Ivor Novello, and double platinum status. Quoted in an early interview, Winehouse said, "all the music around...was a bit dull, so I just started writing music to challenge myself, to write my own stuff." This mindset fits Andreasen's observation of the correlation between creativity and persistence. Unfortunately, due to her creativity, Winehouse also "[had] to confront doubt and rejection." Andreasen mentions that "psychic pain" derived from rejection "[led creatives] to attempt to reduce their discomfort by turning to pain relievers such as alcohol.
Consequently, the jazz vocalist was not only known for her musicality and soon gained notoriety in addition to fame. Often arriving at venues or performances inebriated, Winehouse soon was asked to enter rehab by her producers. Deciding to dump the company and create Lioness, Winehouse used her obstinacy as inspiration for the hit single "Rehab." The song's recurring lyrics of "They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, 'No, no, no.'" emphasizes the singer's dependency and flippant attitude towards drug abuse. The popularity of the song, however, escalated and encouraged Winehouse's insecurities and vices.
Winehouse wrote several songs that were inspired by her frequent visits to clubs and bars such as "F*ck me Pumps" and "You Know I'm No Good." Her honest and scandalous lyrics fed into her controversial public image. By addressing her behavior, Winehouse drew attention to pointedly ignored subjects such as promiscuity and dependency on drugs. The public's shock at the singer's lifestyle sharply contrasted with its attraction to her work as an artist. While tabloids and headlines sold Winehouse millions of albums, her music gained popularity exponentially. She not only brought jazz and R&B music back into pop culture, but also the public fascination with celebrities and their problems.
You can watch her music video for "Rehab" here:
After breaking the record for most Grammy Awards won in one night with six awards, ending her toxic marriage, and a comeback in 2009, Winehouse became a victim of accidental alcohol poisoning in 2011. Her legacy continues, however, as current celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, Lily Allen, and Bruno Mars create tributes in her memory. Moreover, her iconic look and sound prevail as her fans keep her relevant in pop culture. Amy Winehouse may serve as yet another example of creativity falling victim to substance abuse, but her contributions to the music industry are timeless and singular.
Amy Winehouse. (2015). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 10:08, Feb 09, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/amy-winehouse-244469.
Andreasen, Nancy C. "Secrets of the Creative Brain." 2014.