In A Thousand Days, the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger’s magnum opus on JFK’s tragically shortened presidency, there’s an opening epigram pulled from Hemingway’s Farewell To Arms:

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

On Saturday, July 23rd, 2011, British neo-soul singer Amy Winehouse joined the society of modern-day martyrs—she was found  inexplicably dead in her London home.  She was 27 and unbreakable.  While a hauntingly beautiful vocalist, she was probably most widely known for her drug abuse.  In her Wiki, it is written that she suffered from early-onset emphysema, a slowly collapsing lung (“operating at 70 percent capacity”), and irregular heartbeat—all seemingly brought on by her addiction to crack cocaine, among other substances.  According to her father, Mitch, the singer was doing well for a while, “responding ‘fabulously’ to treatment which includes being covered with nicotine patches.”  The singer was reportedly pronounced dead at 4 pm British Standard Time.  After learning of this news by way of Yahoo! the very same day, I went to YouTube and, out of curiosity, keyed in her name in the search box.  A long selection of her music videos instantly popped up.  I randomly clicked the video dramatizing her international hit “Rehab” just to read the user comments below it.

Thebat991 wrote:

I feel bad that she’s dead but with all her issues, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. RIP Amy Winehouse.

Gabbbbriella wrote:





OhayYou wrote:

RIP Amy. </3 I’ve been a fan for a while now and I still am.  You should have gone of gone to rehab babe. D:

In the beginning stanza of her hit song, Winehouse sings:

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, ‘No, no, no’

Yes, I’ve been bad but when I come back you’ll know, know, know

I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine

He’s tried to make me go to rehab, I won’t go, go, go

I’d rather be at home with Ray

I ain’t got seventy days

‘Cause there’s nothing, there’s nothing you can teach me

That I can’t learn from Mr. Hathaway.

I assume she’s referencing the hauntingly beautiful seventies soul singer Donny Hathaway (also unbreakable), who was a manic depressive and a paranoid schizophrenic and was found dead in 1979 after leaping from the 15th-floor of the Essex Hotel in New York City.  In his Wiki, it is written that Hathaway, according to his wife Eulaulah, was “less than diligent about following his prescription regimen,” leading me to assume that he may have jumped to escape the dreadful feeling of being fooled into freedom.  In the life circumstances of modern-day martyrs, there is always the element of freedom—not the lack or excess of it, but the illusion.