Mitch Winehouse with daughter Amy
Published: 5 July, 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY
OFFICIALLY, Mitch Winehouse doesn’t care if you talk badly of him or his daughter Amy, if you make sweeping assumptions about his family and what they are trying to do following her premature death.
He doesn’t care if you tweet horrible things. But, deep down, sure he does. He cares.
“You get these people who leave these blogs who are just sick individuals, we get it all the time,” he says. “I know I shouldn’t read them but I do. I’ve got nearly 50,000 followers. I get thousands of tweets: ‘We think the Amy Winehouse Foundation is doing great’, ‘We love Amy’ and all that, and then you get the one tweet and it says ‘We wish you were dead’ and I go ‘That’s it’. For the whole day I think ‘What am I doing?’”
Mean words were shared online when the idea of a bronze statue of Amy were floated for the first time last month in the New Journal. The cruellest tweets suggested it should come with a needle and a can of beer.
“The reason why there is going to be a statue of Amy at the Roundhouse, hopefully, is because everybody loved Amy,” says Mitch. “Amy was a human being and she was a strong girl who had weaknesses. Superman, the strongest man in the world, I know he’s a fictional character, but he had a weakness, which was a little green piece of rock called Kryptonite. So even the strongest people have their weakness. But Amy was a wonderful person, she did a lot for Camden, did a lot for kids, she was one of the greatest singers the world has ever known: why the hell shouldn’t we put a statue up? Just because it’s going to upset two people in Camden or Kentish Town? If you excuse my French, fuck ’em.”
Mitch Winehouse is a straight-talking man.
In the Hammersmith offices of publishers HarperCollins, he is honest about the fact that his face might be everywhere in the next couple of weeks because he has a book to sell.
“There’s a sticker on the front of the book which says all proceeds are for the Foundation. I should make it bigger. I should stick it to my head,” he says.
That book is Amy: My Daughter, released today (Thursday), in which, after a tender portrait of Amy’s childhood years, Mitch points out that 27 year-old Amy didn’t die of drugs at her home in Camden Square last year. She had been clean of those for around three years.
But he also wants to make clear that the Foundation is there to help people who do fall prey to the menace of substance abuse.
He says Amy, far from being a bad advert, is a positive example as she was able to beat her addiction to drugs.
The Foundation, Mitch says, wants to help drug addicts get help, quicker.
“Amy was fortunate in that when she needed rehab services, we could afford to pay for it,” he says.
“But what about Suzanne Smith – I’ve made that name up – who can’t afford to pay for it? This is a woman coerced by her partner to drugs. She has done everything she can for him. They have a codependence and they have what they think its a deep love. It’s not a deep love, it’s drugs. Eventually he will want her to prostitute herself so they can get money for drugs. If Suzanne Smith or whatever her name is can’t afford to take herself off for her rehab, what does she do?”
He continues: “If you have a bad heart, someone will pick you up and say: ‘We know you can’t afford it, we have the NHS.’ The NHS is fantastic except if you are an alcoholic or a drug addict. If you can’t afford to pay for rehab then you are left to die.”
The new book explains in detail how there is no quick route into turning a drug-scarred life around – and it’s probably harder if you have to do it alongside the fame that comes with producing an album as popular as Back To Black.
Mitch adds: “There are 300,000 registered addicts in this country but only 3,000 in residential rehab. That’s one in 100. The NHS will say that they are getting treatment but what that means is if you are heroin addict just getting a methadone script to take and they are left like that for 20 years. That’s not treatment, that’s not counselling or therapy.”
Mitch has done his research – “I was unfortunately forced to” – and wants people to stop thinking about locking up addicts for extended periods.
“What the government needs to realise is that addiction is an illness. It might not be like cancer or tuberculosis, but it’s an illness,” he says. “We were working with a recovering addict who we went into a school in Staffordshire with.
He has been in and out of the prison for 20 years because he was victimising people in the community, burglarising.
Twenty years ago he said he begged to go into a rehab. It would have cost £10,000 a year and he was told that they couldn’t afford it. Instead, the government has spent close to one and a half million pounds to house him in prison over the 20 years. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to work this one out. Get addicts into recovery, quicker. Get them working and contributing to society.”
There will be people who don’t believe that Amy was off drugs, to which Mitch replies: “That’s why they’ve got to buy the book. We know we can’t fix everything, that in 20 years’ time the last addict will be cured but we want to carry on telling the story of Amy and letting people know there is a life after addiction. Amy managed to deal with her drug addiction. We want to be part of the education and also the treatment.”
Tweet what you like, Mitch means business.
• Amy: My Daughter. By Mitch Winehouse, HarperCollins, £20