British comic Russell Brand is a sometimes-lovable scamp -- a slurry rogue swaggering around like a half-drunk pirate spewing his cock-eyed worldview. Except for one thing: Brand isn't half-drunk, not anymore. He's a recovering addict who credits attending rehab for heroin and sex addictions with saving his life. Because he understands the perils of being powerless against the pull of chemical substances, his tribute to Amy Winehouse, which he posted on his website one day after news about the singer's death broke, is uniquely stirring. You may have hated Brand's cheeky turn as a VMAs host and booed Arthur, but his long blog post is worth a read. If anything makes this guy likeable, it's this very personal memorial.
Brand recalls meeting Winehouse in Camden before she became a household name, when she was "just some twit in a pink satin jacket." He learned she'd become a famous jazz singer but still kept his distance and only saw her perform by chance, alongside the Jam's Paul Weller:
"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."
Brand nails it -- he gets that Winehouse's artistic strength was deeply tied to her personal demons, and that was no laughing matter. Back to Black was not the sound of a troubled artist, but a tortured artist. But Amy didn't have to remain that way. Brand closes his remarkably well-written memorial with a plea for society to treat addicts as ill rather than criminal.
[Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images]
- Russell Brand