Musikens pärlor (34): Amy Winehouse – Back to black

I sommar har jag som vanligt lyssnat mycket på radio. I P1 dyker det upp både gamla musikaliska pärlor och sånt man aldrig hört förr. Nyligen inträffade detta: ”Vem var det där, så bra, det låter bekant, men jag kan inte placera inspelningen och artisten…” Jag glömde kolla låtlistorna efteråt. Någon vecka senare dök samma stycke upp igen i ett annat program. Jag glömde återigen bort att ta reda på vem som sjöng. En kvinna med en fascinerande röst som skar distinkt genom den malande suggestiva taktfasta melodin, men jag uppfattade inte alls vad hon sjöng om, på engelska. Bara att det var mäktigt, berörande, påträngande, bra. Vem f-n var detta?

Nyss när jag i Sommar hörde Malin Byström berätta om sitt liv från uppväxten i Helsingborg till Metropolitan i New York, så spelar hon samma låt. Och nu, jag tittar direkt på för att se låtlistan. Det är verkligen ingen ny inspelning, men ändå har den gått mig förbi trots att det är många år sen den släpptes 2006: ”Back to black” med Amy Winehouse. Död sedan 2011. Drack ihjäl sig. Bara 27 år gammal. Minns att jag såg en skakande dokumentär om hennes liv för några år sedan. Ung, vacker, begåvad judisk artist. Hittade välskrivna inlägg om textens bakgrund och tolkningar av den, se nedan. Ingen tvekan om att hon var en av vår tids bästa i sin genre. Så tragiskt att många av de främsta drogade och söp ihjäl sig. Efter sångtexten nedan kommer en intressant reaktion från en Margaret Fex på texten i Back to black (från webben).

”He left no time to regret
Kept his dick wet
With his same old safe bet
Me, and my head high
And my tears dry
Get on without my guy
You went back to what you knew
So far removed, from all that we went through
And I, tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I’ll go back to black
We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to
I go back to us
I love you much
It’s not enough
You love blow, and I love pow
And life, is like a pipe
And I’m a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside…
We only said goodbye with words, I died a hundred times
You go back to her, And I go back to …. etc etc
Kommentar: ”How anyone could mistake the ”black” in this song for anything other than black tar heroin is beyond me. Maye if you have never heard of black tar heroin, you might mistake it for something else – but Amy was definitely into heroin and other opiates and other drugs as well. Does anybody not know that? Her drug use, as blatant, unhidden, and over-the-top as it was, was actually a part of her cache as an artist and a big part of her personal identity. She emphasized it with her clothes, makeup, hair, body, etc. She never tried to cover it up or ”maintain” – if she was f****d-up, she acted like she was f****d-up, and admitted being f****d-up, too. It is, at least, an honest approach, but I am not saying it is a healthy one. But maybe it is more healthy than the many drug-dependent, alcoholic or drug-abusing musical artists who publicly deny drug or alcohol use, while their lives slowly – or quickly – unravel. How many tragic downfalls there have been, so many deaths, so many lost careers, families, reputations and fortunes? This could literally be a party game – how many drug or alcohol related deaths in rock & roll or popular music artists can you name? I mean, where do you even start: Hank Williams? Janis Joplin? Jimi Hendrix? Jim Morrison? You get my drift. Many of Amy Winehouse’s songs contain overt drug references, although it can be missed sometimes here in the us because some of her slang may be unfamiliar to Americans, because she is – I mean, was – from the uk, and they use some different, often very funny, and colorful, terms for various stuff. Her music also deals quite bluntly with themes of sexual obsession, co-dependency, loneliness, emotional starvation, infidelity, betrayal, selfishness, interpersonal conflict, and all else that make relationships bad. She never sidesteps the difficult issues. I think it is one of the many things that make her music so compelling, so different and yet so easy to identify with – if not the exact circumstances, then the feelings behind them, at least. And then there’s her amazing, versatile, unusual voice – her distinctive sound, and her masterful phrasing – she was very young, but she had what old pro’s like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joe Cocker, Tom Waits, Peggy Lee, and a few others had. They, and she, had that certain something that takes a melody, a lyric, a way of turning a phrase or of breathing a word and suspending it in air, and makes it theirs, and somehow, for the first time, it’s dead-on, like nobody else ever sang it right before, and in that vocal styling is imbued all kinds of meaning that somehow never seemed to come across before, when someone else sang it, even if they sang it perfectly well. The great ones can take a song, or a fragment thereof, and what they do with it, and what they give back, to us, the audience, a bunch of strangers, is something intimate and touching, meaningful and personal, and it provokes within a kind of feeling, something that is deep and which comes welling up from somewhere just south of the heart, that we cannot help but sense, and respond to, involuntarily, at a physical, visceral and emotional level, and it happens even when the listener is not aware of what’s being said. I mean, you could be from Japan, or Java, or Uzbekistan, and be able to read, speak & understand only Japanese, Javanese, or Uzbek – or Uzbekese? – or whatever! – but if you heard Amy Winehouse, (or any of the other artists I just mentioned as a few examples), sing, it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t understand the lyrics or know what the words were or what they meant – you would still be moved, you would still feel things, and it would be real. That’s a gift and a rare one, to cause people to feel things deeply. I believe Amy will go down in history as one of the truly great ones. Yes, it is very sad her artistic career, not to mention her one and only precious life, was cut short, and so tragically. Think of all the stuff we will never hear that she could have done. And that’s just the selfishness of a listener speaking – think of all she could have done, and felt, and loved? She certainly had the talent, and a rare gift for what she did for us. And we, the listeners, are better for having had the privilege of being present for it.”
(Margaret Fex, 2018-05-10).

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