As everyone now knows, troubled singer Amy Winehouse passed away on Saturday. She was as famous for her drug and alcohol-plagued life as her musical career. The English singer-songwriter had a short but controversial run with fame as a musician.
While it is still somewhat early to state with any sort of certainty, it seems her death was due to her on-going struggles with substance abuse, and perhaps to some mental-health problems she was also dealing with. The talented singer who was also known for her foul-mouth was born into a Jewish home.
But she seems to have moved beyond her religious roots. And as many have already noted, her death at just 27 years of age puts her into a club of other famous rock stars and musicians who also died at that age, often due to similar problems. Consider this short list of some of the more well known examples of this:
-Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), died July 1969, drug related
-Jimi Hendrix, died September 1970, drug overdose
-Janis Joplin, died October 1970, drug overdose
-Jim Morrison (Doors), died July 1971, drug overdose
-Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), died April 1994, suicide
Many other lesser known musicians have also passed away at age 27. One has to ask just what is it about the rock star and celebrity culture that seems to lead to such tragic and untimely deaths, due to such reckless lifestyles. It probably comes down to a combination of factors as young people seek to deal with their newfound fame and fortune.
It seems that such hard living, hard rocking and hard partying lifestyles are not very helpful to health and longevity. But while not everyone will be familiar with Winehouse and her work, perhaps even fewer people will be aware of Danniella Westbrook and her work.
I for one was not aware of her until I saw a news report about her in today’s press. It seems that she too was another wild, drug-taking celeb who was on a path of self-destruction. By her own description, she too was headed for an early grave.
The English actress was heading down the celebrity highway to an early exit, but unlike the other famous names mentioned above, she was rescued by a divine encounter. A relationship with Christ has turned her life around. Here is how the story covers this radical transformation:
“Danniella Westbrook, who starred as Samantha Mitchell in award-winning soap drama Eastenders which is shown on UKTV, said she is dedicating the rest of her life to the evangelical The Sanctuary in Westminster, California, after being ‘saved by Jesus Christ.’ Pop star Katy Perry’s parents Keith and Mary Hudson are pastors at the church. ‘Gucci and Prada used to be my God. Now I have given my life to the Lord,’ Westbrook, whose nose was ravaged by snorting cocaine, told the Mirror in the UK.
“‘If you had told me two years ago that I was going to be Christian, I would have laughed. I used to tell people, “I’m way past saving”.’ Westbrook quit Eastenders and moved with her husband to California where the couple were introduced to former drug addict and professional skateboarder turned pastor, Jay Haizlip, by mutual friends. Haizlip is senior pastor of The Sanctuary.
“‘The first time I came to this church, I felt something so spiritual and amazing, I wanted to cry,’ 37-year-old Westbrook said. ‘After a few visits I found myself walking up to the altar to ask the Lord for forgiveness for my sins. It was an incredible experience. I have realised that there have been things I have struggled with, like guilt, that I would have never found a solution for. Because there are things that a therapist cannot give me – that I can only get from Jesus Christ.’
“Westbrook, who made repeated suicide attempts when addicted to cocaine and saw her weight plummet to 38kg (6 stone). She says she would have spent $375,000 on cocaine. ‘I feel that me working on EastEnders and becoming a Christian might be God’s way of leading people to the Lord,’ she said.”
Wow, that is quite a story, and quite a contrast to the life of Winehouse, who as far as we know, never had such a life-changing encounter with the risen Christ. Jesus Christ is in the business of changing lives, and setting people free from their destructive addictions and harmful lifestyles.
It is a pity that more troubled and needy celebs and pop stars have not realised the truths which Danniella has, and have allowed a loving Father to help redeem their messed up lives. God yearns to break into these lives and turn them around by his power and grace.
Please keep Danniella in prayer. It sounds like she is a rather new Christian, and there will be lots of pressure put on her to go back to her old destructive ways. Pray that she grows in her faith and develops her powerful testimony even further, becoming a beacon for others to find hope and new life in Christ.