Amy Winehouse’s passing marks the morbid perpetuation of the relationship between death, music and the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27 after overdosing on particularly strong medication and a night of libations, Janis Joplin died at the age of 27 after overdosing on a combination of heroin and alcohol, and Jim Morrison died at the age of 27 after supposedly snorting heroin, which he believed to be cocaine. If there is some small solace, it is that drugs have not been identified as having any factor in her demise, as People.com reports.
However, the tour de force British singer will immediately best be remembered for her troubled years as an emerging artist, when she abused seemingly any and every kind of drug. After a few years, her career will be put into perspective and she will receive the respect she is due (not to say that people are ignoring her musical achievement now, but her trouble personal life comes to mind first).
As Abbey Goodman’s special commentary for CNN.com states, Winehouse paved the way for the new crop of British soul singers who are making a huge impact in the United States, reminding audiences blue-eyed soul does not have to a genre dominated by Disney television stars. One singer who comes to mind in particular is Adele. Her album 21 is breaking all kinds of sales records in the UK and her album has gone double platinum in the US, while Adele tickets for the North American leg of her Adele Live tour sold out almost immediately upon their release.
This would never have been possible without a singer as talented, as unapologetic, and, frankly, with a penchant for trouble as Amy Winehouse. Winehouse’s short recording career yielded two successful albums. Her debut, Frank, conquered Europe, and her second album Back to Black once again expanded the British musical empire across the Atlantic. There it found an audience awaiting her love of R&B and her impossibly powerful contralto vocals.
Though not as deep of a singer as Winehouse, Adele’s voice is equally as powerful and expressive. Adele is well aware of the trail Winehouse paved for her and other singers, including Duffy, Florence Welch, Estelle, and Eliza Doolittle.
“Amy is a true phenomenon,” Adele said in People. “When she was big in America, me and Duffy were blowing up in England, and I think it made the journey over a bit smoother.”
Amy Winehouse still remains the standard bearer for success as a musical transplant in the 21st century of Brit soul. The artist, the album Back in Black and the single “Rehab” won five of six nominations at the 2008 Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, Best Pop Vocal Album, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Adele’s album 21 appears well on its way to outsell the double-platinum Back in Black, which will likely increase its certification posthumously. She has yet to release a song as iconic as “Rehab” though. “Rolling in the Deep” may become her signature track, but that remains to be seen, since the 2011 Grammy nominations and awards have yet to be announced.
Looking forward, fans of Brit soul will likely be able to enjoy what was recorded for Winehouse’s third and untitled album. They will also get to enjoy years of musical offerings from Adele, Florence and company, as their paths to fame have been far less taxing on the body and the mind and much less likely to necessitate a toxicology report.