"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." That's an unusually lyrical Russell Brand on the first time he saw his acquaintance Amy Winehouse sing. The comedian, who'd known Winehouse for years before her premature death on Saturday, wrote a subdued and moving tribute to her for The Guardian; as well as a personal remembrance, the piece is also a call for a more compassionate understanding of addiction.
Brand was twenty-seven himself when he quit drugs; he didn't really get famous until he was already clean (although before then, he got fired from several TV jobs for antics like bringing his drug dealer to the studio). Winehouse got more famous at a younger age, and therefore may have been more exposed. Like many others, Brand describes her as "vulnerable," and notes (familiarly, but that doesn't mean he's wrong) that "our media… is more interested in tragedy than talent."
Brand concludes that "we need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care," but the part that really sticks is his warm, pained evocation of the quirky, young girl he knew. It's a sad, sad piece, but very much worth reading.