Russell Brand’s Amy Winehouse Tribute Is a Must-Read


I used to think Russell Brand was basically just a goofy Brit with bizarre hair, and then I saw him on a late night talk show. Talk shows often reveal a lot about a celebrity's actual personality and talent, and it was immediately apparent to me that Brand is not only pants-wettingly hilarious—he's absolutely brilliant. Behind Brand's scruffy appearance and over-the-top movie characters is a highly intelligent guy who has a masterful way with words. When you consider his own struggles with addiction, it's perhaps not surprising that Brand's tribute to Amy Winehouse is the smartest, most empathetic contribution I've seen from any Hollywood source.

Brand took to his own website yesterday in order to post a tribute to his friend's death. In a post titled "For Amy," Brand shared some words anyone who's been affected by addiction will find familiar:

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.

Brand has been sober for eight years, but he's always been open about his past struggles with substance abuse. The things he has to say here are all too meaningful to me—I was once the one who created that worry in the people who loved me. My husband's phone once rang with the information that I had been arrested; I am sure, in my worst moments, that he sometimes wondered if the call would be even worse.

Another part of Brand's post stopped me dead:

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.

Yes. Just ... yes, exactly. When you're caught in the undertow of addiction, it is an all-consuming drown. Nothing really matters but the next drink, the next fix.

I love Russell Brand for talking about this, for adding a deeper element to the "saw that coming!" attitude about Winehouse's death, and for taking things a step further by highlighting how the media defined Winehouse for her addiction. Correctly pointing out public fascination tends to revolve around tragedy more than talent, Brand says Winehouse's downfall was far more documented than her musical gifts.

How might her life have been different if that was not the case? If instead of millions of articles snarking about her appearance and her troubles, she'd been treated as someone with a sickness instead of an amusing criminal?

There's no way to know, of course. As Brand writes,

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.

Never mind all the useless celebrity Twitter sound bites, if you read one star's opinion on Amy Winehouse's death, make it Russell Brand's.

Image via Doctor Hyde/Flickr

celebrity death, celebrity


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Liviann Liviann

Thank you for pointing out Brand's piece. I saw a stand-up routine of his and from his jokes I could tell he's a really smart thoughtful person.

kalisah kalisah

As another recovering alcoholic, I have always appreciated how openly you've shared about your addiction & recovery. I find it especially brave of you to highlight Brand's comments about the "veil." I wonder if you would address whether you feel that veil has been lifted in your sobriety. I relapsed last fall & since then, (clean now 9 months) I feel like I'm still living behind that veil. I know that's not really the point of this post but maybe on your personal blog? 

Jessica Black Rodgers

Addiction is a disease. Like Diabetes or heart disease. We expect people with Diabetes and heart disease, once diagnosed, to manage their condition. We should expect addicts, once diagnosed, to manage their condition. Amy's too short life was not due to the media, we cannot blame it on the industry, the fans, or anyone else. She died too young because she did not manage her disease. It's sad, just as sad as when a young person dies from any other treatable condition. I know, and loe, addicts. The ones who take their disease seriously are the ones who still go to AA meetings, work on stress management, and make a daily effort to stay clean. The ones who think all it takes is willpower are the ones who relapse and end up being picked up for possession. As a society we need to recognize addiction for the disease it is so we can support those who struggle with it, but addicts like Amy also need to take responsibility for their health. If she had Diabetes and died because of poor disease management there wouldn't be half the articles or tributes.

Anneli Barnes

I thought his post was moving and very profound.  A classy and appropriate response that flies in the face of the other a-holes who couldn't help but poke fun at Amy and "Rehab".  Appallingly insensitive.

Love him....

Sue Blackwood

Yeah? So he gave "Addiction" a namecheck - big effing deal. He only turned his attentions to Amy once he realised she was About-to-be-Famous. Prior to that, she was apparently just another Camden 'Twerp', moving among those with "impotent charisma". A bit rich, from someone who practices the most sterile form of studied 'charisma' I can possibly imagine. Those of us who ALSO remember her from the early days back in Chalk Farm have other opinions. How tired we all are, this side of The Pond, of this narcissistic, over-indulged fool. He is no intellect. He's just another addict, who foolishly believes himself to be free of it all. His behaviour, of course, denotes the absolute opposite. An addict is always an addict and they act it out, regardless of drugs. Those of us who have been through the mill of addiction on a longer term basis than Brand's brief flirtation with it all, find his endless bragging tedius, ad nauseam. I found his article on Amy as empty as everything else that comes out of his mouth.

Mrs.D... Mrs.Dez78


Sue Blackwood

No, Mrs Dez78, it wasNOT a good article. It wasn't any better than all the other outpourings from jumping-on-the-bandwagon-hacks that have shoved their tuppence ha'penny worth in about Amy in the past 2 days. Suddenly, everyone's an quote you.

Tammy Ostroy Sanders

The bottom line with ADDICTION is that it is a DISEASE.... DIS EASE... Not happy in ones OWN SKIN... and at age 27 the people closest to her should have been very much a part of trying to get her clean and sober...Her dad said a month ago that she was doing AMAZING... I just dont understand that... she was a sick girl that needed LOVE, SUPPORT and people in her life not ENABLING her.... and NOT GIVING up on her...sure its very easy to say go to meetings work ur program be with other drug addicts that are sober to support you ... but at the end of the day you need your closest friends and family especially ur FAMILY to get u to that point!!!!! dont ever give up on an ADDICT!!!! because if u do they will not make it... an addict really needs the LOVE and help of their closest relationships to get them to the point of them wanting to go to meetings being connected and working the program.... but U cannot fall short if u have a family member who is suffering from addiction... BE IN THEIR CORNER.... the miracle will eventually happen.... they need LOVE , PERSISTANCE and SUPPORT !!!! HELP an ADDICT !!!! THey are truley the most PASSIONATE PEOPLE IN LIFE !!!!!!

ohbladi ohbladi

@Sue, An addict cannot be expected to keep themselves in check any more than a person with ADD or depression can be expected to keep themselves in check. It is a mental issue. They don't need to give themselves a shot or take a pill and everything will be fine, but change the entire way they live their lives, the way they interact with the world, and the way they treat and think of themselves. That is an extraordinary thing to expect anyone but especially someone struggling with mental illness to do all alone.

Sandra Conti Todd

Obviously Sue is a hateful selfish person that has NO CLUE about addiction. Get a clue, lady. You truly expect someone in heavy active addiction to MANAGE it? You better pick up a book or two and learn about addiction before you open your mouth. Talk about an empty article, yours clearly takes the cake!

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