Amy Winehouse is dead, and it’s the most popular she has ever been. Distasteful? Perhaps? Morbid? Possibly? True? Certainly. Both her albums back in the top ten, her face on the covers of countless newspapers and magazines, and the first of what I’m sure will be many ‘new’ singles soon to be released.
According to latimes.com: ‘Amy Winehouse’s final recording, a duet with Tony Bennett, will be released as a charity single for a foundation set up in her name, her family said Thursday. “Body and Soul” will go on sale in September, with proceeds going to the newly established Amy Winehouse Foundation. The two singers recorded the pop standard in March at London’s Abbey Road Studios for Bennett’s forthcoming “Duets II” album.’
All proceeds going to charity? What an amazingly warm-hearted, selfless gesture from the record execs. Doesn’t it just restore your faith in humanity? I just have one question: will they also be donating all the profits of the album “Duets 2” to charity as well? Tony’s first Duets album peaked at number 15 in the UK albums chart in 2006, but this kind of publicity, a dead pop star of all things, will undoubtedly see the sequel climb much higher, filling the already bursting pockets of the record company still further. And what about the subsequent renewed interest in Tony’s back catalogue, and the fact he’ll be reaching a brand-new fan base? Dig a little deeper, and it’s not as charitable a gesture as it first appears to be.
The situation brings to mind the most successful ‘charity’ single of all time: Elton John’s Candle In The Wind 1997, a track first penned in honour of Marilyn Monroe, then hastily re-written as a tribute to Princess Diana, following her death.
According to PopHistoryDig.com: ‘All artist and composer royalties and record company profits were donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund’. But what about its double A-side, Something About The Way You Look Tonight? Firstly, has anyone ever explained why Candle In The Wind was released as a double A-side? I mean, who exactly bought the single based upon Something About The Way…? And secondly, with his new album The Big Picture conveniently released the week after the single, how many extra copies were sold on the back of Candle In The Wind, and subsequently, how much money did Elton and co. therefore make from their apparent charity? But Elton and his record company aren’t the only ones benefiting from seemingly unprofitable gestures. Every Comic/ Sports Relief, a new single is released, and its artist, and their present album/ back catalogue get a massive publicity boost, even though, as it is hammered home to us again and again, all proceeds from the single will be going to charity.
So, to a number of people who, in public, will be devastated by her loss, the death of Amy Winehouse is the best news they will receive all year. In the words of Morrissey, an artist yet to taste either death or a number one single: ‘At the record company meeting
On their hands – at last ! – a dead star !’
Prepare for more songs recorded shortly before Amy’s death, and numerous ‘new’ albums, greatest hits compliations, tribute concerts, and media speculation concerning her sad demise. And if Eva Cassidy’s post-death work-rate is anything to go by, we’ll be hearing from beyond- the-grave-Amy for many years to come.