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Commentary: Whither Winehouse?

  • Story Highlights
  • Lola Ogunnaike: Amy Winehouse is a unique talent blessed with a great voice
  • But Winehouse's antics off- and onstage are wearing thin, Ogunnaike says
  • Troubled artist needs to get back to what she does best -- singing, columnist says
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- It all had been going so well. Amy Winehouse had made it to her gig at the Glastonbury Festival (a feat, given her history of no-shows) and she actually looked pulled together in her sequined minidress and sky-high Louboutin heels.


Amy Winehouse performs at the Glastonbury Festival last weekend.

She even managed to remember her lyrics (another feat), and for a moment some even allowed themselves to hope that this was the beginning of better days for the troubled singer.

Uh, wrong.

During her last song of the evening, "Rehab," Winehouse descended into the crowd, singing to those in the front row. Not a good idea. Moments later she was elbowing and punching a fan. The festival's organizer, Michael Eavis, said Winehouse became violent only after an audience member groped her. That may be true, but Winehouse has a history of doling out beatdowns. Video Watch Winehouse's latest rumble »

In 2006, she pummeled a fan who suggested that Winehouse had done wrong in picking the louche Blake Fielder-Civil for a husband. "So I punched her right in the face -- which she wasn't expecting, because girls don't do that," Winehouse told London's Daily Mail at the time. Fielder-Civil received a knee to the crotch when he tried to calm her down.

"When I've been on the booze recently, it's turned me into a really nasty drunk," she added.

Winehouse and her beloved Blake also have traded blows. One particularly nasty brawl left both bruised, bloodied and covered in scratches. Again, she blamed the alcohol.

"I'm either really a good drunk or I'm an out-and-out s***, horrible, violent, abusive, emotional drunk," she told British tabloid The Sun. "If [Blake] says one thing I don't like, then I'll chin him."

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In April, she was arrested after allegedly head-butting a man outside a bar in London. His crime? He tried to hail her a cab. She was held overnight for questioning, but no charges were filed.

There was a time when Winehouse's wild antics seemed glamorous and subversive. Listeners lapped up her tales of woe. Radio played her music incessantly. The fashion world swooned over her wino-chic look (ratty behive, ridiculously kohl-rimmed eyes, tattered ballet flats). And anyone attempting to telegraph cool and urbane aggressively name-checked the singer in conversation.

They were all justified. Winehouse is a unique talent, blessed with one of the greatest voices of her generation. None of this seems to matter to her.

Earlier this month, she was rushed to the hospital after fainting. According to the singer's father, cigarettes and crack have now left her with the early stages of emphysema. Last month, a grainy video of Amy singing a racist nursery rhyme of her own creation surfaced. She was dropped from the coming James Bond movie soundtrack. A recent Rolling Stone profile paints her as a pathetic waif living in squalor.

A female artist felled by an abusive relationship, booze, drugs or some combination of the three is, sadly, nothing new. Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Whitney Houston, and on and on. Why Winehouse hasn't viewed them all as cautionary tales and acted accordingly is beyond unfortunate.

This year, she managed to clean up rather nicely at the Grammys, delivering an impressive performance via satellite (she wasn't granted a visa to the U.S. because of her past troubles). That evening she won five awards, including one for best new artist. Winehouse should put down her dukes and get back to what she does best: singing.


Lola Ogunnaike is the entertainment correspondent for CNN's "American Morning."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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