Amy Winehouse died one year ago today. I remember where I was when I heard that Winehouse had died: I was in my living room sitting in front of my computer, noodling around on Twitter, probably goofing off and being an obnoxious wise ass. As usual.
Then Tweets began – one, then two, then another. And then like the sky opening in deluge, the entire Internet seemed to announce at once that Amy Winehouse had been found dead and wasn’t this shocking – not shocking – tragic – expected – too soon – what did you expect?
As measurements go, the death of a celebrity is a fairly morbid marker of time. We don’t know these people personally. We have no real connection to their lives beyond their artistic ventures and our purely voyeuristic glimpses at what was, at most, a caricature of themselves offered for public consumption.
And yet, as the Internet and supermarket newsstands begin their remembrances and retrospectives of Winehouse’s short, shocking life in the limelight, I find myself repeating with some genuine sadness, ”I can’t believe it’s been a year. I remember that day so well.”
You know what I’m talking about, right? You’ve had these time-stands-still moments over the death of someone you don’t really really know, as well. I can’t explain it more than to know that it happens and each time I’m just as taken aback.
Kurt Cobain, February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994
I am driving along Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia and listening to WMMR when the DJ says that Kurt Cobain of Nirvana is dead. I don’t own a cell phone. Or have Facebook and Twitter. Or a computer. So I sit alone with myself and my sadness for quite some time.
Jerry Garcia, August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995
I am working in the supply closet of a large pharmaceutical company and listening to the radio. The DJ’s voice sounds rough and choked-up as he announces the passing of guitarist and singer of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia. I stop what I am doing, sit cross-legged on the floor, and remember 13 Dead shows and Garcia’s soundtrack to more than a few magical summers. Box of Rain begins to play, and I sing along, one more time.
Joey Ramone, May 19, 1951 – April 15, 2001
Standing in my kitchen, pregnant, barefoot and holding a baby. I am a million miles away from—but instantly become–the teenage girl who first heard Rock and Roll High School sounding like a million Led Zeppelin albums being smashed.
Michael Jackson, August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009
I am working in a bookstore, and the news of Michael Jackson’s death is being spread in a series of questions: Can this be true? Is it a hoax? The Michael Jackson? No one knows for sure, but the sketchy details sounded real enough. And it is enough to make us exhale hard.
Elvis Presley, January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977
I’m ten years old, and the television is on in our living room. A Special Bulletin breaks through regular programming. Elvis is dead.I remember wondering how it could be that someone so famous, so wealthy, so loved could actually die. And for the first time, the thought clearly strikes me: if Elvis could die, then surely, anyone could.
John Lennon, October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980
I am 14 years old, a sophomore in high school, and the Beatles are my religion. I just bought a ticket to my school’s annual spring trip to New York City; however, instead of going to the scheduled Broadway musical, I’m going to skip out and head to Central Park West with a plan to camp out in front of the Dakota apartments and try to catch a glimpse of John at the entrance. It’s now the morning of December 9, my dad walks into my room before I am fully awake and tells me the news that Lennon had been shot dead outside his home in New York City. My heart breaks. Then breaks and breaks again. That spring, I go on the school trip, leave my group at Times Square, and head out alone to spend my afternoon crying in front of the Dakota.