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Russell Brand's Heartfelt Blog About Amy Winehouse

7/24/2011 5:30 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Russell Brand, who famously battled addiction for years, wrote a long and touching blog about his friend Amy Winehouse -- whom he called both a genius and a junkie.

Russell Brand Eulogy
Russell says he finally conquered his addiction at the age of 27, the same age Amy was when she passed away. He says he'd known Amy for a long time before he had ever heard her sing ... calling her voice "entirely human yet laced with the divine."

Here's his blog, in its entirety

For Amy

When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they've had enough, that they're ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it's too late, she's gone.

Frustratingly it's not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene.

I've known Amy Winehouse for years. When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool Indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma. Carl Barrat told me that "Winehouse" (which I usually called her and got a kick out of cos it's kind of funny to call a girl by her surname) was a jazz singer, which struck me as a bizarrely anomalous in that crowd. To me with my limited musical knowledge this information placed Amy beyond an invisible boundary of relevance; "Jazz singer? She must be some kind of eccentric" I thought. I chatted to her anyway though, she was after all, a girl, and she was sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable.

I was myself at that time barely out of rehab and was thirstily seeking less complicated women so I barely reflected on the now glaringly obvious fact that Winehouse and I shared an affliction, the disease of addiction. All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they're not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but un-ignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his "speedboat" there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they're looking through you to somewhere else they'd rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.

From time to time I'd bump into Amy she had good banter so we could chat a bit and have a laugh, she was "a character" but that world was riddled with half cut, doped up chancers, I was one of them, even in early recovery I was kept afloat only by clinging to the bodies of strangers so Winehouse, but for her gentle quirks didn't especially register.

Then she became massively famous and I was pleased to see her acknowledged but mostly baffled because I'd not experienced her work and this not being the 1950's I wondered how a "jazz singer" had achieved such cultural prominence. I wasn't curious enough to do anything so extreme as listen to her music or go to one of her gigs, I was becoming famous myself at the time and that was an all consuming experience. It was only by chance that I attended a Paul Weller gig at the Roundhouse that I ever saw her live.

I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal. Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I'd only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound. So now I knew. She wasn't just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes. She was a f**king genius.

Shallow fool that I am I now regarded her in a different light, the light that blazed down from heaven when she sang. That lit her up now and a new phase in our friendship began. She came on a few of my TV and radio shows, I still saw her about but now attended to her with a little more interest. Publicly though, Amy increasingly became defined by her addiction. Our media though is more interested in tragedy than talent, so the ink began to defect from praising her gift to chronicling her downfall. The destructive personal relationships, the blood soaked ballet slippers, the aborted shows, that youtube madness with the baby mice. In the public perception this ephemeral tittle-tattle replaced her timeless talent. This and her manner in our occasional meetings brought home to me the severity of her condition. Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death. I was 27 years old when through the friendship and help of Chip Somers of the treatment centre, Focus12 I found recovery, through Focus I was introduced to support fellowships for alcoholics and drug addicts which are very easy to find and open to anybody with a desire to stop drinking and without which I would not be alive.

Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy's incredible talent. Or Kurt's or Jimi's or Janis's, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill. We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn't even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call.
218 COMMENTS

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31.

DatDogBitez    

Beautiful, heartfelt blog from Russell.

1186 days ago
32.

Jill Conway    

I always liked Russell Brand, but am overwhelmed by the eloquency of his blog. He KNOWS exactly what addiction is and isn't. I have a beautiful family member who is a step away from death due to her addiction. We wait every day for "the call". Although we would do anything for her, she refuses to stop. The feeling of helplessness is agonizing. Amy, you finally have found the peace you were searching for. The world will miss you.

1185 days ago
33.

Carrie    

DatDogBitez... who said to me "holier-than-thou comments based on no real experience in the realm of serious drug addiction, would be your next bad habit to conquer."

I'm sorry DatDogBitez... but my comment posting disease is not my fault. You see like all people who do frowned upon things too much it's not my fault. It's a serious disease. I think Russell Brand can direct my tax dollars to get me the help I need. I am powerless. I better start the 12 steps.

Oh and what makes a drug habit 'serious'? When too many people get peeved at you? When too many life responsibilities like work go by the wayside? When too much money is spent? When you like drugs so much you want to be high all day every day? Is that what makes it 'serious' and a 'disease'? Are the people who have extreme negative consequences in their lives and injuries from their drug use the only ones who qualify as having a 'disease' for you? Are they the only ones who chose to keep using and didn't choose to moderate or quit? Where's your evidence I've not dealt with 'serious' drug problems? You don't have evidence of that, nor evidence doing too much of anything is a 'disease'. If I'm being too boorish, obviously like anyone with a bad habit I 'can't help it'. Amy Winehouse was probably told she had a 'disease' and had to give herself over to a higher power. She had wealth and the best 'treatment' money could buy, countless times. Clearly, her outcome is a testament to how 'successful' treatments that tell you that you are powerless can be.

1185 days ago
34.

beachkid    

Very well written, Russell. Thanks.

1185 days ago
35.

StuntMom    

Well put statement by Russell Brand. And I totally agree, these nasty rag mags build you up to tear you down. Once you're down, they put their foot in your back, making it so hard to regain the smallest bit of self-esteem...and so the cycle keeps going on.
While I wasn't surprised at Amy's death, I was deeply saddened. She was so talented, a breath of fresh air, a vocal styling to be reckoned with. I only wish she could have cared for herself as much as others cared for her. There'll never be another like her.

1185 days ago
36.

Tangela    

What a wonderful article on a sad event. I have been reading blogs/articles about Amy Winehouse and this is by far the best that I have read about this unfortunate event.
She is someones daughter, friend and inspiration and love should be shown but this world has become such a cruel and cold place. Tragedy is treated as though it is the victims fault. Why is it necessary to assess blame? Why can't we learn and grow from the experience and heal along the way?
My sincere heartfelt condolences to all who are affected by this unfortunate event and may you find peace in time.
Tangela

1185 days ago
37.

Brenda    

Well it seems Russell Brand has grown up and wised up. A beautiful compilation of his feelings about Amy and addiction from an addict. But the "you can lead a horse to water" story is so true to everyone that has tried to get someone to seek help. You can take them peacefully, kicking and screaming or so out of it they don't know who you r or they r for that matter. It's up to them.

1185 days ago
38.

Deborah     

Your words are beautiful. So glad you found your way.....so sad Amy did not.
I have always liked your work, now I have a new respect for you.
Blessings to you and your family.

1185 days ago
39.

Rika    

From the time I heard him say "Winehouse you didn't bring me f!*# all!" you knew there was a special friendship. A heartfelt tribute for a lost soul with a great talent. My condolences go out to her family and friends.

1185 days ago
40.

Kym    

Well put. The reality of addiction is that it is a disease...the addict doesn't chose to have it, but has to chose to get better. From a mom with a child struggling with it, I am hoping that I do not get the late night call. I hope people can show some respect. Amy was an amazing artist, but she was also a real person with real struggles. May she RIP.

1185 days ago
41.

Anthony    

Bravo to you Mr Brand. I feel terrible for Amy and her family. I never paid her much mind though I knew she could sing her butt off. I too have had issues with drugs and pain and depression. I know how she feels. Being rich doesn't seem to matter when you have this disease. I am sorry there will be no new material from her for her fans to enjoy and I am sorry her poor mom and dad won't have her around anymore. There was nothing they could do for her, she just clearly didn't want to expend the energy to get better and maybe just lacked the capacity to do so. If it was easy to stop there would be no addicts out there.

1185 days ago
42.

TaysGran    

Russell...well done. I'm sorry for your loss.

1185 days ago
43.

Carrie    

People who are told they are powerless, become powerless. Considering these lifestyles to be 'diseases' breeds helplessness.

Winehouse made a choice. She then made that same choice thousands of times after that. That choice was to start, and to keep doing, and overindulging in substance use that harmed her body and destroyed her life. If she's not made to own those choices, the kids who aren't famous will not be made to own their choices.

1185 days ago
44.

Merf    

THAT was beautiful...

1185 days ago
45.

Home Skillet    

Incredible blog post, Russell. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with both Amy and addiction. I hope that your words reach, and help, the many who need it.

1185 days ago
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