I first was introduced to your music by my wife around the time Back to Black came out. We just started dating, and she heard “You Know I’m No Good” on Hot 97, the version with Ghostface Killah rapping on it, and asked me to find it for her. From there, we copped the album, and fell in love, literally. My memories of falling in love with my wife coincide with listening to Back to Black, which is ironic because that album is made up mostly of songs that vividly describe the painful experiences you were having with your man. But it truly was a staple in our early times together. We listened to it constantly in the car and the crib. And as I do with all artists I’m into, I went searching for rarities and unreleased songs of yours, and found a couple gems to add to heavy rotation.
Pretty instantly, Back to Black made its way into my desert island Top Five Albums. I mean, the songwriting and production style is just amazing. And your voice, holy cow, it’s one of a kind. I became obsessed with watching these live videos of you performing your songs unplugged (like the one posted below), and I was in awe of your natural ability. You would just kill it to the point where I’d have to rewind certain moments in the song because I was so impressed with how effortlessly you were going in. And the fact that you were Jewish blew my mind! I felt a deep connection to you as a fellow Jew with soul. Pardon the corniness, but it’s true. I used to love to hear you in interviews say how you felt like a little black boy trapped in a white girl’s body.
On New Year’s Eve of 2009, about eight months after our wedding, my pregnant wife and I invited some friends over to celebrate the new decade. After the ball dropped, we all danced along to your live DVD, mimicking your background dancers and singing all your lyrics. It was the perfect way to start 2010. Five months later, our first son was born, and we would play your music around the house all the time, making memories to your songs.
Like many of your fans did, I’d constantly wonder when we were going to hear some new music from you. Eventually, it became more common to see you in the tabloids than to hear you on the radio, and that worried me. But I continued to root for you, because I believed in you and knew there was a beautiful person beneath all the rubbish, and hoped that you would be well enough one day to give us another batch of classic songs. Unfortunately, you passed away before you were able to.
I’m still uncertain about what happens when humans die, but I’d like to think that you are now an angel, free from stress, addiction, and heartache, spending your days singing and laughing and smiling with other angels who care about you. My hope is that somewhere there is a vault filled with songs of yours we have never heard, and that someone will be kind enough to open it up and share them with us one day. But regardless, you are immortalized by the timeless music you already gave us.
Thank you for everything you contributed to our world. You will never be forgotten. RIP.