The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
) -- Tabloid journalism and the music recording industry did not help Amy Winehouse. She was an amazing artist who is now dead.
Rather than educating our citizens on the dangers of drug abuse, the media treated her like a freak show exploiting her every destructive pratfall for their own personal gain. And rather then promoting her as the seminal artist she was, the music industry played up her "alternative choices" and "unique lifestyle" to boost record sales and sell concert tickets.
Any time we start -- even indirectly -- in profiting from other's pain, we need to start paying closer attention to our personal value system.
Q: Saw your comment on Amy Winehouse's passing. She really was a great artist, and I agree with you that the media exploited her. Rest in Peace, andthanks for pointing this out.
It is so sad.
Enormously talented performer. A real jazz woman with a passionate, painful , almost other worldly voice. Our generation's Billie Holiday.
As someone who works professionally with those addicted to drugs, I cannot say I was surprised. Taking drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy mixed with her lifestyle and work demands -- was simply a recipe for disaster.
She seemed like a woman in great pain -- filled with significant personal demons. She seemed very vulnerable and certainly her interaction with men (suffering similar addictions) was extremely harmful.
Chemical addiction, mental health pathology and equally sick associates can be a lethal combination.
Putting all that aside, I do believe the media and music industry acted shamefully in both their coverage and promotion of her career and rapid demise.
Her biggest hit was a song (which won her three Grammy's) called
"They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'/Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know, know, know/I ain't got the time and if my daddy thinks I'm fine/ He's tried to make me go to rehab but I won't go, go, go"
This illustrates perfectly the strange way in which those involved in Winehouse's public persona profited on exploiting that which was most vulnerable about her. Certainly, she did not shy away from this fact. It takes
two to tango
And ultimately we alone are responsible for the damage we inflict on ourselves. But she was a young sick girl caught in our pop culture machine. The adults in the room still had a responsibility to act like adults.
And I can't help but think that in celebrating this talented girls excesses, everyone rewarded her persona and exacerbated her illness.
The media's spotlight on each breakdown did nothing to assist her in getting the help that was so desperately needed. Her failed rehab attempts were in sharp contrast to increased record sales promoted by the entire music industry (radio stations, management, promotors, labels, etc.)
What message did this send to her?
That there is profit to be had in pain. Success in suffering.
It is not the media's job to legislate morality. But what is the line between covering and exploiting? Did we really need to see before and after pictures of the heroin-induced emaciation of her physical frame?
What about the smudged make up? The falling off stage? The rambling non-sequiturs? Is that reporting? Or is it something a little darker?
One more thing: This week I watched and read constant references to the "27 Club," consisting of talented musicians whose drug and alcohol addictions led to their untimely death at age 27. Famous names included Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, etc.
Addiction is a deadly disease affecting people of all ages. Pointing out the supposed uniqueness of all these talented musicians being 27 years old might seem clever and oddly coincidental -- but it is meaningless and only serves to romanticize the notion of the painful artist, in a prolonged adolescence, finally succumbing to his/her darkest demons.
It is not a club. They are people who died. And we cheapen the seriousness of addiction, by creating this type of manufactured story line.
Amy Winehouse's death was a tremendous loss to the music industry and all her family, friends and fans. There is a tendency to continue exploiting her illnesses by rehashing old war stories from her life. Exposes that minimize her depth and maximize her eccentricities will be easy to put together.
I would rather see us educate our young people about the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol from a realistic, nonjudgmental stance. I would rather see us focus on celebrating the heroic stories of recovering addicts like Robert Downey Jr. or documenting real addicts' struggles in documentaries like
I would rather see us supporting alternative to incarceration programs like Legal Aid Societies' Manhattan Diversion Program or CASES (Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment), so that those suffering from a disease will be treated not condemned.
Thank you reader for giving me a chance to express my feelings about a subject that I am so passionate about it.
This week, I am including a link to my appearance Tuesday on
"The Dylan Ratigan Show" where
Please keep sending me your wonderful questions to "ASK NOAH" at
Have a profitable and peaceful week,
Noah Saul Kass