Russell Brand Remembers ‘Genius’ Friend Amy Winehouse

'A Wake Up Call'
Expert: Winehouse's death should scare celebs.
Amy Winehouse: 1983-2011
A look at Amy's brief light in the spotlight.
Stars of all genres and ages took to Twitter yesterday to mourn the sudden and sad loss of singer Amy Winehouse, and now there’s a sprawling tribute that goes far beyond 140 characters, written by fellow Brit (and also former addict) Russell Brand. The Get Him to The Greek funnyman took to his own website to write a post titled “For Amy,” in which he remembers how he came to know Winehouse during her early days in the music biz, and what it was like seeing her perform for the first time — and watching her ascend into the darkness that ultimately led to her demise.

Brand opens the post reflecting on what many have been thinking since news of Winehouse’s death broke: That somewhere inside, many knew this day might come. He wrote:

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.

He goes onto talk about how he and Winehouse became familiar with each other, saying he “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.” Amy, though, had a different charisma, as Brand calls her “sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable.”

At the time of their early interactions, Brand was still a drug addict — a characteristic that was common among Winehouse’s group of friends. “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,” Brand writes.

But it’s his summary of hearing Winehouse perform live for the first time that truly grasps the power — and tragedy — behind Winehouse’s legacy.

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—–g genius.

The touching tribute ends not with a screed about celebrity pain, but a warning sign to all humans who might suffer from substance abuse.

“We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease … 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.”