Russell Brand remembers Amy Winehouse: friend, genius, addict

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Russell Brand is among those mourning the weekend death of Amy Winehouse, but from a somewhat unique position: Brand met Winehouse when he was newly sober at 27 and when the ‘jazz singer,’ as he put it, had yet to cross paths with global fame. And her story might well have been his.

‘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,’ Brand, 36, wrote Sunday on his blog.


He saw her ‘oddly dainty presence’ on stage only once, he said, and that experience changed his perception of her from ‘some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends’ in London’s Camden district to a genius with a voice filled with ‘power and pain.’

‘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.’

Brand got sober in 2002 after years of arrests and debauchery, with his career growing to include film and TV work as well as the stand-up stage. Winehouse won five Grammys in 2008 for the album ‘Back to Black,’ released in Britain in 2006 and the U.S. in 2007, but her addiction-related antics came to overshadow her talent as a third album never materialized and a comeback tour was canceled after a Belgrade, Serbia, performance that the British press dubbed ‘shambolic.’

Brand and Katy Perry were married in India in last October. Winehouse was found dead in her North London home on Saturday.

‘Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent,’ Brand wrote. ‘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.’

Not everyone knows a ‘Winehouse,’ as he called her, but he noted that most do know drunks and junkies in need of help that is out there for them.

‘All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call.’

Thoughts on Brand’s final words for Amy?


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-- Christie D’Zurilla