I was sitting in a pub in Camden—Amy Winehouse’s favorite area of London—when I heard of her death. It’s a vivid memory to this day. In this excerpt from Girls, Interrupted: How Pop Culture Is Failing Women, Lisa Whittington-Hill examines the way society as a whole remembers Amy, and how that contrasts with the legacy of Kurt Cobain. It’s an analysis that raises some uncomfortable questions.
Both Winehouse and Cobain had a complicated relationship with fame, resenting their success once the whole machine got too big. The singers didn’t want all the fancy things their hit songs and sold-out shows afforded: they just wanted to play music. “My music is not on that scale. Sometimes I wish it was, but I don’t think I am going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I’d probably go mad,” Winehouse says, in the 2015 documentary Amy, of her pre–Back to Black status, describing fame as a “scary thing.”