CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Winehouse and Westbrook: A Tale of Two Celebs

Jul 25, 2011

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.

www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/tv/former-eastenders-actress-daniella-westbrook-turns-to-serving-god-at-the-evangelical-sanctuary/story-e6frexlr-1226100826253

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17 Responses to Winehouse and Westbrook: A Tale of Two Celebs

  • Brings to mind another (favourite of mine) rock singer who had his life turned around. John Schlitt of Petra fame, was the lead singer of successful band Head East when he was told by management to pursue a more hedonistic lifestyle to suit his image. Quickly consumed by alcohol and cocaine he was then sacked by the band as too unreliable. To the point of suicide, thinking his life over, his wife, new to faith in Jesus, dragged him to her pastor for a confrontation. A few years later an ‘out of the music bus.’ John is picked up to lead Petra (the most successful christian rock band at the time) for the next decade as God redeems another life almost wasted by this destructive lifestyle. John’s testimony is on youtube. Unfortunately the media and young people are drawn to the tragic! (moth to a flame) but there is so much more to live for.
    Nathan Tellery

  • Hi Bill
    I find myself overwhelmed time and again as God does the miraculous in lives which we think are beyond saving. What an awesome God!
    Vic Trudeau

  • And earlier than that is Barry McGuire (“Eve of Destruction”) who saw all his mates in the music business, who had embraced the ideal that music could unite the world and stop people and nations fighting, fall to the destructive influences of fame, sex, drugs and alcohol.
    John Angelico

  • I heard Barry McGuire share his testimony on radio a couple of years ago. It was very inspiring.
    Ross McPhee

  • That is great news to hear about Danniella Westbrook. Praise God.
    Garth Penglase

  • We definitely need to pray for her as the pressures to give testimonies and public meetings will make it extremely hard for her to keep her mind stayed on Our Lord. We need to pray that her teachers and Pastors allow the Lord time to grow her and transform her mind into the new creation that God has made her into.
    Doug Matthews

  • Hi Bill
    Thank you so much for speaking at our College today! A truly insightful treasure of a time and I hope to keep what you had to say close to heart for the rest of my life.

    This article struck a personal note for me, as I myself am a musician/ singer-songwriter in a band called Steeplejack. It is both a confronting reminder of the dangers of the secular music industry (where I find my ministry) and yet also a wonderful comfort to see the grace and power of our Lord – reaching into those “heading to the grave” lifestyles to bring freedom to the ‘self-imprisoned’ and transform the lives of the lost.

    Again, thank you very much for all you’re doing and the impact you’ve made in my life and many more to come!

    Matt Lister,
    Steeplejack

  • Many thanks Matt.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes indeed, Bill. Many who come to the Lord as mature adults (not necessarily famous people) often have an amazing experience and feelings, that lasts for a year or so, then things get hard and difficult; that’s when it’s so easy to go back to the bad old ways; indeed, it’s been said that the good feelings/experience never lasts, and the real/everyday/ongoing experience of Christians is the hard grind (I could attest to that myself!); so yes, Daniella does need prayer.
    It could be asked (and this troubles me sometimes) why (in our perception) the Lord “came” to Daniella, but not others (eg. Amy W), whose need is as great (any thoughts?)
    John Thomas, UK

  • Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects) is another celebrity who seems to have given his life over to Jesus, as well as Chuck Norris. Great news in both cases 🙂

    The singers of most of the songs in the below website were both heavily into the music scene several years back until one of them got saved and then lead the other to the Lord.

    They are now both ministers!

    Check out the awesome music God has got them singing these days…

    http://www.mcc777australia.org/free_downloads_18.html

    Mario Del Giudice

  • It is pleasing to receive some good news for a change with the turn around with Danielle Westbrook. During my radio days, I interviewed a number of artists in Nashville Tennessee. Although many interviews were with country music singers, some were with rock artists. The rock artists seemed to be under more pressure than the country stars, because the rock fans were inclined to be more fickle than those who followed country music. Consequently, rock stars seemed to suffer more with feelings of insecurity. Also they were more likely to be a target for drug pushers, who would feed them with the idea that drugs would make them feel better. With big stars such as Amy Winehouse, she would be under enormous pressure to continue her career successfully. I remember one country artist I interviewed, with whom I built up a friendship. I was saddened when, after not hearing from this very talented artist for a while, my inquiries revealed that he had shot himself. Some music executives began promoting what they thought was a more modern type of country music, which sounded more like bad rock & roll, so that he and others didn’t fare so well with recording contracts. They couldn’t change to other types of non glamorous work, for obvious reasons and just couldn’t handle the situation.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  • Brian “Head” Welch former band member of Korn also had a radical encounter with God. Brian was addicted to heroin and other drug substances I believe. His daughter (12 or so years of age) was singing one of Korn’s songs about sex. Brian knew after that he had to turn his life around and you can see his testimony on youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf5WYigZHME

    David Scott

  • Thanks for this encouraging post Bill.

    Actor Kirk Cameron is another celebrity that is swimming against the flow – his stand for Christ amidst the pressures to compromise is inspiring as documented in his autobiography (his testimony is here at http://living-testimony.blogspot.com/2007/06/testimony-converting-kirk-cameron.html).

    Another Christian celeb is Dyan Cannon doing some interesting work in Hollywood.

    Peter Jackel

  • Thanks Bill,
    All I can say is: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see” – thanks to Jesus of Nazareth.
    Robert Colman

  • Quite right Robert. And as John Newton also said, “I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great savior.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • One of my favorite quotes. Thank You Lord for Your mercy…
    Jim Drago

  • To be honest, when I read this before, I didn’t feel particularly saddened about Amy. I had never even seen her and to me it was just another statistic – but I’ve just watched a youtube video of her in concert, either drunk or stoned. Here was someone’s daughter. This is just so tragic … and it could have been any one of us, but for the grace of God.

    Annette Nestor

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