Amy Winehouse Finally in Rehab

July 29, 2011

Amy Winehouse, the London singer who died last week and famously sang that she wouldn't go to rehab, is finally in rehab.

It's too late for Winehouse, of course, but her image has been in rehabilitation mode since news broke of her death. Her death made international news, and tens of thousands of fans and mourners have paid their respects. Though the cause of death has not been determined, almost everyone assumes it was either a drug overdose or drug related.

After smash success and two well-received (and Grammy-nominated) albums years ago, Winehouse fell off the map. Her music was sidelined by brushes with the law and drug use. No one thought (or expected) much from beehived Winehouse in recent years. To most she was just another of a long list of talented has-been musicians whose genius was squandered through drugs. People were sympathetic to addiction, but pointed out that Winehouse chose her lifestyle, and in fact seemed to embrace drugs, famously disinterested in kicking her habits: "They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'"

She had a long string of disastrous performances. Just a few weeks ago she was booed off a stage in Serbia. Fans had a right to boo: Winehouse showed up an hour late, was unprepared and unprofessional, stumbling and mumbling through her songs before fans had enough. If she couldn't perform, couldn't put on a good show, she should have cancelled. Musicians do it all the time when they are sick or not feeling up to it.

What a difference a few weeks (and a death) make. The public narrative of Winehouse's story was reframed so that she is now a victim and martyr to a life of success, excess, and addiction.

Interesting insight into this process can be found in the recent book Heroes: What They Do & Why We Need Them, by Scott Allison and George Goethals, both of the University of Richmond. They note that "A dead martyr appears to derive sympathy and support from two different sources. First, we know from our research on the death positivity bias that a person's death leads to great liking and admiration for that person. Second, most martyrs embrace underdog causes, and people tend to root for underdogs." In this case Winehouse's underdog status was her long and storied history of drug addiction.

This is nothing new, of course. Perhaps the most amazing posthumous image rehabilitation in the past decade was that of Michael Jackson. In the years before his death his musical contributions had long since been eclipsed by stories of sexually abusing children, his increasingly bizarre plastic surgeries, dangling his child off a balcony, and so on. Then he died of a drug overdose, and it seemed that all was forgotten, or at least forgiven. The narrative shifted from weird, possibly pedophilic freak trading on his success decades earlier to tortured genius on the verge of a comeback.

Winehouse was a talented singer, and her death is certainly a loss to the music world. No one knows if she would have ever put out another album, or put on another good performance. It's often been said that the best thing an artist can do for their career is to die young, and that was certainly true for Winehouse. Sales of her albums have gone through the roof, and she's far more popular in death than in life-due largely to rehab.


#1 drstrangelove on Friday July 29, 2011 at 10:15am

Excellent points!

#2 Melody Hensley (Guest) on Friday July 29, 2011 at 10:51am

I’ve mostly heard nasty comments about her death from the public so I’m not so sure her image has been rehabilitated. I think we should have more empathy concerning her life and death, and understanding of the horrible disease of addiction.

#3 Stan Brooks (Guest) on Friday July 29, 2011 at 11:50pm

It is always sad to learn of the death of someone so young, and yet there are so many deaths of young people that one more should hardly be a shock.  My only regret really is that this will be used as a prod to urge more young people into AA, a religious based program with an abominable success rate and an ever increasing cult like manifestation.  Addiction is a terrible affliction, whatever that vague term might mean, but there are alternatives now to what has for some time been the “standard treatment model”, one such program being SMART Recovery(

#4 Stan Brooks on Saturday July 30, 2011 at 12:08am

I forgot I’d never registered, and have done so in order to post the URL for SMART Recovery, as it might be of help or interest to some.  Here it is: This is only one of a growing number of secular and science based approaches to addiction and recovery.

As an addendum I would add that I quit drinking some 20+ years ago while attending AA, but quit attending after some years as I became more aware of, and troubled by, the cult like nature of the groups, which I also observed getting worse as time progressed (or as my powers of critical thinking improved with increasing abstinence,eh?). 

On the other hand there were many people who seemed to be helped by AA, as there are many people who seem to derive comfort from churches.  It would be good to hold on to what has been useful (social interaction, group purpose) and jettison that which serves no further purpose (reliance on imaginary friends, unprovable claims and beliefs).

#5 mid atlantic on Saturday July 30, 2011 at 5:31pm

Great topic. It is odd, yet at the same time understandable-this process of rehabing someone’s image after they die. People really do have a psychological need for heroes; somebody to identify with,and reflect off of. Don’t spiritual figures serve the same purpose?! Winehouse definitly had the disease of addiction along with a strong desire to simply be liked and grab attention. In today’s world, celebrities who “behave horribly” and die young, barely makes anyone blink once, especially teens and young adults. That’s probably a good thing.

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