‘Dear Amy. You will be missed forever. All my love.’
She was a troubled rock star. And those troubles saw her join the greats of the 27 Club. Her woes beforehand are well documented and known to those who followed music in the noughties. A friend played me one of her albums back in the day – ‘Back to Black’ I think. It was obvious she was talented, but I didn’t rush out to buy it the next day.
He’s sold 75 million albums in a long career and I certainly shelled out for a couple of them. For me he was second tier – not up there in the stratosphere like Springsteen, Clapton or Morrison (Van), but down a notch with guys like Seger, Petty, Mellencamp and the Eagles. Nowadays, I suspect, to admit you’re a fan of his would be akin to saying you’re a Phil Collins devotee – but I’m old and have no qualms in saying I admire both of them. If others figure they’re naff, I don’t give a toss. And he’s still active in the music world despite now pushing beyond sixty. Why, he even played the AFL GF a few years back – and made a better fist of it than Meatloaf. But this is also one guy who has reinvented himself.
Initially this scribbling was never to be about his music but that reinvention when he entered into the world of a highly professional photographer. And it was that, rather than musical collegiality, that led to what could be considered an unlikely relationship. So unlikely it triggered my curiosity and spun this piece off into another direction.
From the eighties on Bryan Adams was huge musically, but behind the scenes he was working on another passion. His interest in camera-snapping predates his advancement to the top of the charts worldwide. He photographed everything around him as a teenager in the seventies – local scenery, the concerts he attended, even his girlfriend in the bath. At around the same time he was cracking it musically he was honing his skills in this other artistic field and as his star waned entertaining the masses in vast arenas, he realised that he was getting pretty adept with this other string to his bow. So much so that he would never have to rely on the millions he was making from the royalties for ‘The Summer of ‘69’ and his other classic ditties. Of course, his name would gain him access to celebrities willing to pose before his lens – Morrissey staring moodily at his camera in a Rome hotel suite, Dustin Hoffman relaxing on a Malibu beach, Jagger strutting or Pink and Kate Moss happily prepared to pose topless for him. Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire have all lined up to commission him for images. Converse, Guess Jeans, Hugo Boss, Jaguar have employed him on print media campaigns. He founded the on-line fashion mag Zoo and has received prestigious gongs for his output. He has published a number of glossy books of his product such as ‘Exposed’ and ‘American Women’. And, just in case you’re thinking he’s a one trick pony, there’s also his poignant take of the damage war does on the bodies and minds of soldiers with his tome on those injured due to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s titled ‘Wounded’.
There is nothing to suggest the musician/photographer’s connection with Amy Winehouse was anything more than friendship, with perhaps his perceived desire to see her live a better lifestyle thrown in. Adams had a taste for her music and obviously took a liking to her. He captured her unique beauty in several shoots from 2007 on, although it’s a bit of a mystery what drew them together and how close they actually were as mates. Although Adams has never married, he has had long term relationships and has kiddies with his current partner. He is also very reluctant to give too mach away about his connection to the departed singer. In 2008, peeved at being asked the question, he retorted, ‘I don’t even know, truthfully, how anyone knows I know her – other than the fact I photograph her. I don’t really talk about it. Because it’s her business. You know what I mean?’ Later on he had softened a tad. In another interview, when quizzed on the unlikeliness of it, he responded, ‘I think she trusted me. The photographs really show her having fun…I think I was closer to her than many people.’
‘But They were drawn to you like a moths to a flame
Nobody saw the tears in your silk n’lace
Or the scarred little kid behind your face
She’s an angel, but that’s all right’
Adams could not but help know of Amy’s demons – her battles with alcohol and drugs; her fractured personal life. ‘Amy wasn’t kind to herself,’ he’d later say. In 2007 he wrote ‘Flowers Gone Wild’, a song to purportedly warn her of where she could end up if she continued on without tempering her excesses. That same year he persuaded her to spend some Christmassy time with him in the West Indies sunshine at his digs on the island of Mustique. It was speculated that the invitation was extended as much to help her come clean as it was out of friendship.
‘I’d be sitting in a villa and hear what sounds like a bird flying by, then I’d look out the window and it’s Amy, singing in falsetto, just playing around.’ It seems she was happy there. Adams took her scuba driving and tried to teach her how to drive – thus the image of her peering out from the window of hs Jeep. ‘The concept of braking wasn’t something that Amy could quite grasp.’
In 2010 the photographer shot Amy W for a spread in Harper’s Bazaar. The Canadian songster, a vegan for years, tried to get her to eat some of his variety of tucker. ‘I need protein Bryan.’ was her answer and she sent out a minion to seek some out, asking him/her to bring back a cucumber, as well, to ‘…to hit Bryan with.’
An interviewer had also booked some time with her after she had completed her tasks for Adams. He observed her demeanour throughout and noted that she was very professional and confident to start with, but by the end, had become less obliging and just a tad fractious with the shoot. By the time she got to him she was ‘…distracted and vague. My most straight forward questions confuse her.’ When asked if she had any unfulfilled ambitions she airily responded, ‘Nope! If I died tomorrow I would be a happy girl.’ She didn’t last much longer.
At one stage in her career she informed NME Magazine that, ‘I’ve learned to appreciate simple things, like the beauty of nature. It’s taught me to face my fears…I’ve come to the realisation that life is short, so I want to make sure I live every minute of it.’
She passed, of alcoholic poisoning, in 2011. A posthumous album, ‘Amy Winehouse Lionness – Hidden Treasures’, was released later that year. It went straight to No.1. A Bryan Adams image of her graced the cover.
‘Dear Amy. You will be missed forever. All my love. RIP. Bryan Adams’
Bryam Adams Photography = http://bryanadamsphotography.com/