NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t





When Amy Winehouse, the British musician who sang memorably about her refusal to go to rehab, died due to problems related to drugs, alcohol and bulimia in July 2011, she was nearly as famous for her personal struggles as she was for her music. Just 27, Winehouse had been tabloid fodder for years. “Amy sold newspapers. If she was on the cover of a tabloid, it sold more copies. If she was on a website, they got more hits,” film director Asif Kapadia tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. It was the dawning of the digital age, with the advent of YouTube, Facebook and other popular cultural websites, and “She was the unlucky one to be having a nervous breakdown in public at the time.” Kapadia’s new documentary, Amy, tries to rescue the singer from the tabloid narrative by examining who she was before she was famous — and tracing how addiction and fame transformed her. Kapadia pieces the film together using interviews with Winehouse’s family and friends, as well as footage and excerpts from home videos, holiday cards and answering machines. “One of the big revelations for me — there’s lots of revelations making this film — I didn’t realize how funny she was,” Kapadia says. “I didn’t realize she played a guitar. She had this amazing personality.” Among those interviewed in the film is Nick Shymansky, who initially discovered Winehouse when they were teenagers. He became her first manager. Shymansky was present for the unsuccessful effort to get the singer treatment for her addictions, which resulted in the song “Rehab.” In it, Winehouse sings, “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, ‘No, no, no’ … I ain’t got the time, and if my daddy thinks I’m fine…” “That song [‘Rehab’] is pretty much verbatim what happened that day,” Shymansky tells Gross. “It was all lined up for her to go [to rehab], and who knows what would’ve happened. … But we had it all lined up and [Winehouse’s father] changed his mind and, if anything, belittled my position and also my point of view.” Winehouse never made it to rehab that day, and her song about the experience became her biggest hit — and also, maybe, her biggest miss. “Later on, people watched her singing it with a glass of wine in her hand, or a vodka, and sitting there dancing to it, but this is a cry for help in a way,” Kapadia says. MORE