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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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76.

mema    

Wow, I never knew Russell had such depth and empathy. You have articulately done what the media have failed to do Russell and Amy would be so pleased to read this as well as many addicts out there. I hope now the media can stop the criminalisation of Lindsay Lohan because she is one of many addicts out there who need empathy and not judgement. You have no idea how many lives you've touched with your piece of writing. I am officially a fan. God bless your soul!

1124 days ago
77.

Greg    

Nicely said. Tragic but a lesson to be learned nonetheless. RIP...

1124 days ago
78.

cadreamer    

Thank you for that. You are an amazingly honest, touching and beautiful writing. Your writing reveals a huge depth of compassion and heart. You are obviously a good soul, and extremely intelligent.

I agree-addiction is a disease. As much as people like to throw stones at how Amy ruined her life, threw it away, it really is a sickness that overtakes the people unlucky enough to be predisposed to it. I wish Amy had friends or loved ones who'd been able to successfully step in and help her. It's not always easy, so I don't want to make the judgement that people did nothing. Many addicts shun help to such a degree that the only way to intervene is through illegal means-kidnapping them and forcing them into a program. Obviously, that's not possible. So, it's ultimately up to the addict to get the help. But it's so important for family & friends to not give up on the addict. Don't stop trying. Relentlessly intervene...Otherwise your loved one will surely be taken by this disease.

Amy was an extraordinary talent. Her voice was from another time and another place. I hope so much her talent is celebrated, rather than her death mocked or glorified. None of us really knew her, so it would be foolish to cast stones about her life, her addiction, and her demise. But we did hear her amazing music. That's what the fans know. So let's celebrate her etherial, powerful voice and thank our lucky stars that we were able to enjoy such timeless music from such a talented soul.

1124 days ago
79.

MoonDust    

Nicely said Russel Brand. RIP AMY your beautiful soulful voice will be missed:(

1124 days ago
80.

saynotolies    

Amy and her beautiful voice will be missed Russell, you are an amazing man...so eloquently put, your words and feelings for Amy...that's the problem with the media, they focus on the troubles of people, not there achievements. Fear not Russell, for there are people who do focus on the good, and you my friend are one of the best of them!

1124 days ago
81.

Dan    

Thanks Russell for reminding us of why she was such a talent. I think most of us agree with every point you made including the decriminalizing of addiction. You should run for office. Katy could be the new Nancy Reagan.

1124 days ago
82.

gia    

Wow, I never expected something so deep and profound for him. Respect.

1124 days ago
83.

katlizy    

the most real note on addiction yet. Thank you

1124 days ago
84.

Tony    

So long druggie like all the other loser druggies and drinkers!!!! F--- this guy to can't stand this d--khead.

1124 days ago
85.

Rika    

We know it's a really odd concept for the internet, but really, if you don't have anything nice to say, it's amazing how much others will appreciate you not saying anything at all. Just be nice, or move along.

1124 days ago
86.

Diane    

All I can say is Wow! So much wisdom and so nicely said! It's probably the nicest thing that will be said about Amy. I'm saddened that she had to endure so much pain. I am glad you have been able to find peace. I hope your words will help others find their way. Thank you Russell.

1124 days ago
87.

Mike Litoris    

Amy's music gave my emotions a voice. I listened to my CD so much that it wouldn't play anymore. I come from a family of addicts and was truly rooting for her, not just as a huge fan, but as a fellow human. My husband was the one who told me about her death, struggling to do so because he knew it would break my heart. She was one of the few true talents in the world today, but she was also a tortured soul as so many of the great ones are. Russell's blog paid proper tribute to her talent without glossing over the truth that no matter how talented you are in any field, addiction will always overshadow everything you do until you can conquer that demon.

1124 days ago
88.

anactoria    

Spot on Russell. Thank you for some kind words for a tortured soul. Congrats to you and may Amy RIP. Made the call 17 yrs ago :)

1124 days ago
89.

Al    

@mema and all those surprised by the intellligence and articulation with which Russell's message was written, I implore you to read his books. Hiding behind deceptively childish titles are well written, genius tales of addiction and debauchery, despair and joy. Russell's "My Booky Wook" and "Booky Wook 2", will provide even more of an insight into addiction and the road to recovery.

1124 days ago
90.

danielle    

Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you Russell for being so loving and poetic, honest and obvious.

1124 days ago
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