WHEN Amy Winehouse died aged 27 on July 23 last year, the newspapers that had gloried in calling her “Amy Wino” and in tracking the self-destructive, hurtling, downward spiral of her life suddenly rediscovered a sober and lachrymose respect for her talent.
Amy, My Daughter
by Mitch WInehouse
HarperCollins, 320pp, £20
Such was the potency of the image created, though, it was hard to separate the artist from the rackety gorgon of tabloid myth.
It is perhaps no surprise, then, that her father Mitch should attempt, if not to set the record straight, at least to rebalance it with this rose-tinted account of a sweet, cheeky girl undone by bad taste in men and intoxicants.
Mitch, a sometime cab driver and window salesman, seemed to enjoy bobbing along in the slipstream of his daughter’s combined fame and infamy to a slightly discreditable degree. He accompanied her to awards ceremonies, boosted his own singing career, and wasted few opportunities to discuss her addiction problems, and her marital spats, in the media. The fact that all profits for this discomfiting book are going to a foundation set up in his daughter’s name to provide “help, support and care for young people” would seem to insulate him against further criticism.
He comes across here as a genuinely loving and despairing dad, not too strong on self-knowledge and naive about his daughter too. Amy never even smoked cannabis until after the release of her bombshell debut album, Frank, he claims.
He’s mystified how someone who used to start gigs with an anti-drug chant could end up hooked on smack. The happy, headstrong child that he describes is at odds with Amy’s obvious tendency to self-harm.
Even late in the day, when she is painfully thin, and on and off the wagon, Mitch agrees that a boob job would help her “self-esteem”.
Amy’s worst addiction, he reckons, was to her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, a drug addict and a proper wrong ‘un. And what the book communicates most strongly – and most counter-productively – is the tediousness of emotional, as well as chemical, dependency. It becomes an endless litany of lies and fights, break-ups and reunions, rehab and relapse, on and on, down and down.
There’s not much to lighten the mix, bar the odd scene of Mitch belting drug dealers or booting Blake up the arse like some comedy EastEnder, although I liked Amy ticking him off for wasting his money on drugs after he decides, for some reason, to have Botox in his forehead.
It’s written pretty much as you would imagine Mitch would write. Maudlin, I-love-you-dad conversations are recalled in improbable detail (he kept a diary). His protests fall “on deaf ears”, he finds himself “at the end of my tether” and he describes the Macbeth pub in Hoxton as “a top music venue, frequented by celebrities”.
This doesn’t add much to the sad story of Amy Winehouse, or shine any new light on the alchemical talent that produced two devastating albums. But if you do buy it, at least the money is going to a good cause, right?
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