Know when to walk away

Reputed gambling addict and relentless Christian moralizer William J. Bennett has stern words for the Grammy judges:

(CNN)"They tried to make me go to rehab / I said, 'No, no, no.' " –Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"

Her most famous song may have been about substance abuse, but it mocked urges and demands to enter a rehab facility for her addiction problems. Then, in 2008, 24 years old and in the midst of story after story about her drug abuse, Amy Winehouse won Grammy Awards for best record of the year, best song of the year and best new artist of the year

With those awards, a message was sent: Mock addiction, create a rallying cry for those in its grip, blow your life up in every aspect other than financial success and name recognition, and you will be rewarded with the industry's gold medals. Today, at age 27, she is dead. The cause of death is unknown, but drugs took a toll on her life even if they did not they cause her death.

My guess is that William J.Bennett doesn't know a lot about music, or music awards, or song lyrics.  My guess is also that William J.Bennett wouldn't have written this same piece about the quondam drug-addled Johnny Cash, who celebrated cocaine-feuled spousal murder, or, for that matter, Kenny Rogers, who sung of gambling (while drinking).

Tu quoques aside, the song, if you listen to it, isn't quite as shallow as the refrain suggests.  Besides, I don't think people are looking for moral lessons from the Grammy judges in the first place.

5 thoughts on “Know when to walk away”

  1. Yeah, the tu quoques come fast and heavy with Bennett, which bothers me.  The vices he's been on record criticizing have been those destructive of society (lying, untrustworthiness, cowardice), and his own failings aren't the same.  It does bother me that he's waded in on this issue, though.  Grammy-nomination and winning is not the cultural force he's taking it to be.  That said, Bennett comes from that line of quasi-Platonists who take art to have serious capacities to form or deform character.  I can sympathize with his concerns along those lines.  But that's not something to criticize the Grammy committee for, but Winehouse herself.

  2. Fair enough.  Bennett has always been heavy on substance abuse addiction, so there's that. 

    I'll grant that Bennett is a Platonist about winehouse's music, but he's given it a very shallow reading, and he's presumed, maybe on account of his Platonism, that her fans are equally shallow.

  3. Other artists who have made a mark with alcohol and drug abuse, good or bad, have never been treated well by the press.
    Take Marylin Monroe, for instance, who to this day is believed to have fallen to her death while intoxicated.  The media curicified her, and yet her fans remain loyal.  I am one of them!
    Or Kurt Korbain, Nirvana lead singer, who kiled himself in a drug overdose.  Another field day for the media and his songs are still played on the radio.
    It is tragic to see the death that follows from fame, but more tragic is the way those people are treated by the media as stars alive and after death.  Why society has become so addicted to star's lives I will never know, but I do know that until our celebrities and artists can have time away from the public eye without being hounded day and night by the media, we will continue to have deaths like Amy Winehouse's.
    This is in no way excusing Amy's actions, but I can try to see her life from her point of view.  It's not an easy life being in the spotlight 24/7.  We all know this to be true.  Yet, we never seem to see the bigger picture of what it is like to live in that spotlight, instead of shining it on someone else.
    If Bennett lived in the spotlight that Amy did, we may be reading about his death, and not hers.  Yet, I have trouble believing anything Bennett had a talent for would ever garner him the fame and fortune Amy recieved.
    I may be wrong, but I see Bennett as an ambulance chaser, always running his mouth after a tragic event.  The typical "The Sky is Falling" foghorn that never seems to do any good, just get people riled up about something that was never in their control in the first place.  I would like to see this man dedicate himself to creating some good out of a situation, and stop preaching about the bad.  We can find bad all on our own.

  4. Not to quibble, but…. Marilyn Monroe didn't die in a fall, unless she somehow died falling into bed. Kurt Cobain didn't die of a drug overdose – he shot himself – although it would appear that his struggle with heroin addiction was a huge factor.
    Bill Bennett could sing, "They tried to make me go to Gambler's Anonymous, I said 'No, no, no.'" His initial reported statement that his gambling days are over, followed by a 'clarification' that he was only done with excessive gambling, would sound familiar to pretty much any addict.

  5. And here I thought no one listened to me!
    You are absolutely right about Marylin and Kurt!

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