The life of the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse is remembered in a book written by her best friend, Tyler James. They first met when she was 12, and he was 13 at Sylvia Young’s Theatre School in London. Partnered to record Happy Birthday for a teacher’s mum, Tyler was amazed by Amy’s voice, and she by his. As two insecure outsiders, they formed an instant connection and lived together from their late teenage years until her death, aged just twenty-seven.
Tyler wasn’t Amy’s husband or boyfriend, but he describes himself as her ‘twin flame’ and soul mate. He was there for everything during her chaotic roller-coaster teenage and adult life. A singer in his own right, he describes their early carefree days of touring and the influences on her music. Tyler talks with love about her talent, bravery and loyalty. He also talks about a woman who became increasingly lost as fame took over her life. Tyler documents her volatile marriage to Black Fielder-Civil, who caused Amy to become addicted to heroin, and her battles with escalating addictions, self-harm, and eating disorders.
Tyler was viciously attacked by a gang of thugs one evening and had his own battle with prescription drugs and alcohol afterward, but once sober, he was determined to help Amy beat her many demons. He was there with her when she had stopped taking the drugs and was on her way to beating her alcoholism too. But as we know, she tragically didn’t end up surviving. But My Amy reveals a woman away from the scandalous headlines, who was caring and funny, and an uncompromising force of nature. There are many genuinely wonderful experiences alongside out-of-control addiction.
My Amy celebrates an extraordinarily talented singer-songwriter, and it’s also a devastating study into fame and addiction. Amy Winehouse’s fame was the stuff of nightmares, not dreams, where she lost her control and freedom, and along the way, she became lonely and isolated before her tragic death. Tyler was probably the only person who she could trust at the end – he was her friend, her confidant and carer.
Tyler’s love for her shines through, and reading his account, we understand the true tragedy of her passing, seeing it through his eyes. Her death wasn’t inevitable, as many people would say. Recovery was all she could talk about the last few months of her young life, which makes this an even more heartbreaking read.
My Amy is written with honesty and love and is published on the tenth anniversary of her death. It’s an insightful but challenging book to read, given the looming sad outcome that the overshadows the entire book. But it ultimately reveals a complicated, brilliant artist and her life beyond the tabloid headlines, and we get a chance to see the real Amy Winehouse.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Macmillan, RRP $39.99