Amy Winehouse in Berlin in 2007
|Birth name||Amy Jade Winehouse|
14 September 1983|
|Died||23 July 2011
|Genres||Soul, R&B, jazz, blues|
|Occupations||Singer, songwriter, composer, arranger|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, drums|
|Labels||Island, Lioness, Universal Republic, Republic|
|Associated acts||Dionne Bromfield, Mark Ronson, Tony Bennett, Nas, Zalon, Tyler James, Paul Weller, Lily Allen|
Amy Jade Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter known for her deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres including R&B, soul and jazz. Winehouse's 2003 debut album, Frank, was critically successful in the UK and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her 2006 follow-up album, Back to Black, led to six Grammy Award nominations and five wins, tying the then record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made Winehouse the first British female to win five Grammys, including three of the "Big Four": Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
In 2007 she won a Brit Award for Best British Female Artist; she had also been nominated for Best British Album. She won the Ivor Novello Award three times: once in 2004 for Best Contemporary Song (musically and lyrically) for "Stronger Than Me", once in 2007 for Best Contemporary Song for "Rehab", and once in 2008 for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for "Love Is a Losing Game".
Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on 23 July 2011. Her album Back to Black posthumously became the UK's best-selling album of the 21st century, at that point. In 2012, Winehouse was listed at number 26 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music. The BBC has called her "the pre-eminent vocal talent of her generation."
Amy Winehouse was born in the Southgate area of north London, to Jewish parents. Part of her mother's family originated in Russia. Her parents influenced her interest in jazz. Her father, Mitchell "Mitch" Winehouse, was a taxi driver; her mother, Janis Winehouse (née Seaton), a pharmacist. Her grandmother Cynthia was a singer and she had an older brother, Alex (born 1979). Many of her uncles on the mother's side of her family were professional jazz musicians. Her father Mitch often sang Frank Sinatra songs to young Amy, who also took to a constant habit of singing to the point that teachers found it difficult keeping her quiet in class. Winehouse's parents separated when she was nine.
When Winehouse was nine years old, her grandmother Cynthia suggested she attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School for furthering her vocal education. She attended the Earnshaw school for four years and founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet 'n' Sour with Juliette Ashby, her childhood friend before seeking full-time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School; however, Winehouse was allegedly expelled at 14 for "not applying herself" and also for piercing her nose. (Sylvia Young herself has denied this—"She changed schools at 15—I've heard it said she was expelled; she wasn't. I'd never have expelled Amy.") She also appeared in an episode of The Fast Show, 1997, with other children from the Sylvia Young School and later attended The Mount School, Mill Hill, the BRIT School in Selhurst, Croydon, Southgate School and then Ashmole School.
After toying around with her brother Alex's guitar, Winehouse received her first guitar when she was 13 and began writing music a year later. Soon after, she began working for a living, including, at one time, as an entertainment journalist for the World Entertainment News Network, in addition to singing with local group the Bolsha Band. In July 2000 she became the featured female vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra; her influences were to include Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. Her boyfriend at the time, soul singer Tyler James, sent her demo tape to an A&R person. Winehouse signed to Simon Fuller's 19 Management in 2002. While being developed by the management company, she was kept as a recording industry secret. Her future A&R representative at Island/Universal, Darcus Beese, heard of her by accident when the manager of The Lewinson Brothers showed him some productions of his clients, which featured Winehouse as key vocalist. When he asked who the singer was, the manager told him he was not allowed to say. Having decided that he wanted to sign her, it took several months of asking around for Beese to eventually discover who the singer was. However, Winehouse had already recorded a number of songs and signed a publishing deal with EMI by this time. Incidentally, she formed a working relationship with producer Salaam Remi through these record publishers.
Beese introduced Winehouse to his boss, Nick Gatfield, and the Island head shared his enthusiasm in signing the young artist. Winehouse was signed to Island/Universal, as rival interest in Winehouse had started to build to include representatives of EMI and Virgin starting to make moves. Beese told HitQuarters that he felt the reason behind the excitement, over an artist who was an atypical pop star for the time, was due to a backlash against reality TV music shows, which included audiences starved for fresh, genuine young talent.
Winehouse's greatest love was 1960s girl groups. Her stylist, Alex Foden, borrowed her "instantly recognisable" beehive hairdo (a weave) and she borrowed her Cleopatra makeup from The Ronettes. Her imitation was so successful, as the Village Voice reports: "Ronnie Spector—who, it could be argued, all but invented Winehouse's style in the first place when she took the stage at the Brooklyn Fox Theater with her fellow Ronettes more than 40 years ago—was so taken aback at a picture of Winehouse in the New York Post that she exclaimed, "I don't know her, I never met her, and when I saw that pic, I thought, 'That's me!' But then I found out, no, it's Amy! I didn't have on my glasses."
The New York Times reporter, Guy Trebay, discussed the multiplicity of influences on Winehouse's style. Trebay noted: "her stylish husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, may have influenced her look." Additionally, Trebay observes:
- She was a 5-foot-3 almanac of visual reference, most famously to Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes, but also to the white British soul singer Mari Wilson, less famous for her sound than her beehive; to the punk god Johnny Thunders...; to the fierce council-house chicks... (see: Dior and Chanel runways, 2007 and 2008); to the rat-combed biker molls photographed by the Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger in the 1960s; to a lineage of bad girls, extending from Cleopatra to Louise Brooks's Lulu and including Salt-n-Pepa, to irresistible man traps that always seemed to come to the same unfortunate end.
Major label success and Frank
Winehouse's debut album, Frank, was released on 20 October 2003. Produced mainly by Salaam Remi, many songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, every song was co-written by Winehouse. The album received positive reviews with compliments over the "cool, critical gaze" in its lyrics and brought comparisons of her voice to Sarah Vaughan, Macy Gray and others.
The album entered the upper levels of the UK album chart in 2004 when it was nominated for BRIT Awards in the categories of "British Female Solo Artist" and "British Urban Act". It went on to achieve platinum sales. Later in 2004 she won the Ivor Novello (songwriting) Award for Best Contemporary Song, alongside Salaam Remi, with her contribution to the first single, "Stronger Than Me". The album also made the short list for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. In the same year she performed at the Glastonbury Festival, the V Festival, the Montreal International Jazz Festival (7 July 2004, at the Club Soda), and on the Jazzworld stage. After the release of the album, Winehouse commented that she was "only 80 percent behind [the] album" because of the inclusion by her record label of certain songs and mixes she disliked. Additional singles from the album were "Take the Box", "In My Bed"/"You Sent Me Flying" and "Pumps"/"Help Yourself".
International success, Back to Black and touring
In contrast to her jazz-influenced former album, Winehouse's focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Winehouse hired New York singer Sharon Jones's longtime band, the Dap-Kings to back her up in the studio and on tour. In May 2006 Winehouse's demonstration tracks such as "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" appeared on Mark Ronson's New York radio show on East Village Radio. These were some of the first new songs played on the radio after the release of "Pumps" and both were slated to appear on her second album. The 11-track album was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Ronson, with the production credits being split between them. Ronson said in a 2010 interview that he liked working with Winehouse because she was blunt when she did not like his work. Promotion of Back to Black soon began and, in early October 2006 Winehouse's official website was relaunched with a new layout and clips of previously unreleased songs. Back to Black was released in the UK on 30 October 2006. It went to number one on the UK Albums Chart numerous times, and entered at number seven on the Billboard 200 in the US. It was the best-selling album in the UK of 2007, selling 1.85 million copies over the course of the year.
21-second audio sample from Amy Winehouse's first hit
25-second audio sample from one of the standout tracks on "Back to Black" album
Originally performed by The Shirelles in the 1960s, this version slows the tempo down and features a jazz arrangement.
|Problems playing these files? See media help.|
The album spawned a number of singles. The first single released from the album was the Ronson-produced "Rehab". The song reached the top ten in the UK and the US. Time magazine named "Rehab" the Best Song of 2007. Writer Josh Tyrangiel praised Winehouse for her confidence, saying, "What she is is mouthy, funny, sultry, and quite possibly crazy" and "It's impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson that references four decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you've got the best song of 2007." The album's second single and lead single in the US, "You Know I'm No Good", was released in January 2007 with a remix featuring rap vocals by Ghostface Killah. It ultimately reached number 18 on the UK singles chart. The title track, "Back to Black", was released in the UK in April 2007 and peaked at number 25, but was more successful across mainland Europe. "Tears Dry on Their Own", "Love Is a Losing Game" and "Just Friends" were also released as singles, but failed to achieve the same level of success.
A deluxe edition of Back to Black was also released on 5 November 2007 in the UK. The bonus disc features B-sides, rare, and live tracks, as well as "Valerie". Winehouse's debut DVD I Told You I Was Trouble: Live in London was released the same day in the UK and 13 November in the US. It includes a live set recorded at London's Shepherds Bush Empire and a 50-minute documentary charting the singer's career over the previous four years. Frank was released in the United States on 20 November 2007 to positive reviews. The album debuted at number 61 on the Billboard 200 chart.
In addition to her own album she collaborated with other artists on singles. Winehouse was a vocalist on the song "Valerie" on Ronson's solo album Version. The song peaked at number two in the UK, upon its October single release. The song was nominated for a 2008 Brit Award for "Best British Single". Her work with ex-Sugababe Mutya Buena, "B Boy Baby", was released on 17 December 2007. It served as the fourth single from Buena's solo debut album, Real Girl. Winehouse was also in talks of working with Missy Elliott for her album, Block Party.
Winehouse toured in conjunction with the Back to Black album's release. She performed headlining gigs in September and November 2006, including one of the Little Noise Sessions charity concerts at the Union Chapel, Islington. On 31 December 2006, Winehouse appeared on Jools Holland's Annual Hootenanny and performed a cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" along with Paul Weller and Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. She also performed Toots and the Maytals' "Monkey Man". She began a run of another 14 gigs beginning in February 2007. At his request, Bruce Willis introduced Winehouse before her performance of "Rehab" at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. Winehouse made awards organizers nervous when she went on a Las Vegas jaunt in the hours before the show. During the summer of 2007, Winehouse performed at various festivals, including UK's Glastonbury Festival, Chicago's Lollapalooza festival, Rock Werchter and Baltimore's Virgin Music Festival.
Winehouse's tour, however, did not go as well. In November 2007 the opening night of a 17-date tour was marred by booing and walkouts at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. A music critic for the Birmingham Mail said it was "one of the saddest nights of my life...I saw a supremely talented artist reduced to tears, stumbling around the stage and, unforgivably, swearing at the audience." Other concerts ended similarly, with, for example, fans at her Hammersmith Apollo performance saying that she "looked highly intoxicated throughout", until she announced on 27 November 2007, that her performances and public appearances were cancelled for the remainder of 2007, citing doctor advice to take a complete rest. A statement issued by concert promoter Live Nation blamed "the rigours involved in touring and the intense emotional strain that Amy has been under in recent weeks" for the decision.
Continued success and acclaim
By year's end Winehouse had garnered numerous accolades and awards. The singer won 2008 Grammy Awards in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single "Rehab", while her album Back to Black was nominated for Album of the Year and won the Best Pop Vocal Album award. Producer Mark Ronson's work with her won the award in the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category. The singer also earned a Grammy in the Best New Artist category. This earned Winehouse an entry in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act. She performed "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" at the awards ceremony via satellite, as her visa approval came through too late for her to travel to the US. She said "This is for London because Camden town ain't burning down", in reference to the Camden Market fire. After the Grammy Awards, the album's sales increased catapulting Back to Black to number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 after initially peaking at number seven. On 13 January 2008, Back to Black held the number-one position on the Billboard Pan European charts for the third straight week. In January 2008, Universal Music International said it believed that there was a correlation between number of albums sold and the extensive media coverage the singer had received.
A special deluxe edition of Back to Black topped the UK album charts on 2 March 2008. The original edition of the album resided at the number 30 position, in its 68th week on the charts, while "Frank" charted at number 35. By 12 March the album had sold a total of 2,467,575 copies, 318,350 of those in the previous 10 weeks, putting the album on the UK's top 10 best-selling albums of the 21st century for the first time. On 7 April, Back to Black was residing at the top position on the pan-European charts for the sixth consecutive and thirteenth aggregate week. Back to Black was the world's seventh biggest-selling album for 2008. These sales helped keep Universal Music's recorded music division from dropping to levels experienced by the overall music market.
At the 2008 Ivor Novello Awards, Winehouse became the first artist to receive two nominations for the top award, best song, musically and lyrically. She won the award for "Love Is a Losing Game" and was nominated for "You Know I'm No Good". "Rehab", a Novello winner for best contemporary song in 2006, also received a 2008 nomination for best-selling British song. Winehouse was nominated for a MTV Europe Award in the Act of The Year category. Amy Winehouse – The Girl Done Good: A Documentary Review, a 78-minute DVD, was released on 14 April 2008. The documentary features interviews with those who knew her at a young age, helped her gain success, jazz music experts, as well as music and pop culture specialists. A clip of Winehouse's music was included in the "Roots and Influences" area that looked at connections between different artists at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, which opened in December 2008. One thread started with Billie Holiday continued with Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and finished with Winehouse. In a poll of United States residents conducted for VisitBritain by Harris Interactive that was released in March 2009, one fifth of those polled indicated they had listened to Winehouse's music during the previous year. Winehouse performed with Rhythms del Mundo on their cover of the Sam Cooke song "Cupid" for an Artists Project Earth benefit album that was released on 13 July 2009.
On the week of 26 July, after Winehouse's death, Frank, Back To Black, and the Back To Black EP re-entered the Billboard 200 at number 57, number 9, and number 152 respectively with the album climbing to number 4 the following week. Back To Black also topped the Billboard Digital Albums chart on the same week and was the second best-seller at iTunes. "Rehab" re-entered and topped the Billboard Digital Songs chart as well, selling up to 38,000 more digital downloads. As of August 2011 "Back to Black" was the best-selling album in the United Kingdom in the 21st Century.
On 20 February 2008, Winehouse performed at the 2008 BRIT Awards, performing "Valerie" with Mark Ronson, followed by "Love Is a Losing Game". She urged the crowd to "make some noise for my Blake." In Paris she performed what was described as a "well-executed 40-minute" set at the opening of a Fendi boutique. Although her father, manager and various members of her touring team reportedly tried to dissuade her, Winehouse performed at the Rock in Rio Lisboa festival in Portugal in May 2008. Although the set was plagued by a late arrival and problems with her voice, the crowd warmed to her. In addition to her own material she performed two Specials covers. Winehouse performed at Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday Party concert at London's Hyde Park on 27 June, and the next day at the Glastonbury Festival. On 12 July at the Oxegen Festival she performed a well-received 50-minute set which was followed the next day by a 14 song set at T in the Park. On 16 August she played at the Staffordshire leg of the V Festival, and the following day played the Chelmsford leg of the festival. Organizers said that Winehouse attracted the biggest crowds of the festival. Audience reaction was reported as mixed. On 6 September she was the headliner at Bestival. She performed what was described as a polished set which ended with her storming off the stage. Her hour late arrival caused her set to be cut off at the halfway point due to a curfew.
Winehouse and Mark Ronson contributed a cover of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party" to the Quincy Jones tribute album Q Soul Bossa Nostra released 9 November 2010. Winehouse and drummer ?uestlove of the Roots had agreed to form a group. Winehouse's problems obtaining a visa delayed the still unnamed group from working together. Producer Salaam Remi had already created some material with Winehouse as part of the project. According to a newspaper report, Universal Music pressed her regarding new material in 2008. According to that same report, Winehouse as of 2 September had not been near a recording studio. It was noted that she had touring obligations during the summer and also that if an album was quickly recorded, it would be at least a year before an album could be released. In late October Winehouse's spokesman was quoted as saying that Winehouse had not been given a deadline to complete her third album, for which she was learning to play drums.
During her 2009 stay in Saint Lucia, Winehouse worked on new music with producer Salaam Remi. Island claimed that a new album would be due in 2010; Island co-president Darcus Beese said, "I've heard a couple of song demos that have absolutely floored me". In July 2010 Winehouse was quoted as saying her next album would be released no later than January 2011, saying "It's going to be very much the same as my second album, where there's a lot of jukebox stuff and songs that are... just jukebox, really." Mark Ronson said in July 2010 that he had not started to record the album.
In May 2009 Winehouse returned to performing at a jazz festival in Saint Lucia amid torrential downpours and technical difficulties. During her hour long set it was reported she was unsteady on her feet and had trouble remembering lyrics. She apologised to the crowd for being "bored" and ended her set by walking off the stage in the middle of a song. To a cheering crowd on 23 August at the V festival, Winehouse sang with The Specials on their songs "You're Wondering Now" and "Ghost Town". In July 2010 she performed "Valerie" with Mark Ronson at a movie premiere. She sang lead but forgot some of the song's lyrics. In October Winehouse performed a four song set to promote her fashion line. In December 2010 Winehouse played a 40-minute concert at a Russian oligarch's party in Moscow. Guests included other Russian tycoons and Russian show business stars. The tycoon hand picked the songs she played.
During January 2011, she played five dates in Brazil, with opening acts of Janelle Monáe and Mayer Hawthorne. On 11 February 2011, Winehouse cut short a performance in Dubai following booing from the audience. Winehouse was reported to be tired, distracted and "tipsy" during the performance.
On 18 June 2011, Winehouse started her 12-leg 2011 European tour in Belgrade. Local media described her performance as a scandal and disaster, and she was booed off the stage due to her apparently being too drunk to perform. It was reported that she was unable to remember the city she was in, the lyrics of her songs or—when trying to introduce them—the names of the members of her band. The local press also claimed that Winehouse was forced to perform by her bodyguards, who didn't allow her to leave the stage when she tried to do so. She then pulled out of performances in Istanbul and Athens which had been scheduled for the following week. On 21 June it was announced that she had cancelled all shows of her European tour and would be given "as long as it takes" to sort herself out.
Winehouse's last public appearance took place at Camden's Roundhouse, London on 20 July 2011, when she made a surprise guest appearance on stage to support her goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield, who was singing "Mama Said" with The Wanted.
Winehouse's last recording was a duet with American singer Tony Bennett for his latest album, Duets II, which was released on 20 September 2011. Their single from the album, "Body and Soul," was released on 14 September 2011 on MTV and VH1 to commemorate what would have been her 28th birthday. Her father, Mitch Winehouse, launched The Amy Winehouse Foundation with the goal of raising awareness and support for organisations that help vulnerable, young adults with problems such as addiction. Proceeds from "Body and Soul" will benefit The Amy Winehouse Foundation. The song received the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards on 12 February 2012. Winehouse's father, Mitch Winehouse, picked up the award at the awards ceremony with his wife Janis, saying, "We shouldn't be here. Our darling daughter should be here. These are the cards that we're dealt."
- was in trouble at that time because she had a couple of engagements that she didn't keep up. But what people didn't realize at that time, that she really knew, and in fact I didn't even know it when we were making the record, and now looking at the whole thing; she knew that she was in a lot of trouble; that she wasn't going to live. And it wasn't drugs. It was alcohol toward the end. . . . It was such a sad thing because . . . she was the only singer that really sang what I call the 'right way' because she was a great jazz-pop singer. . . . She was really a great jazz singer. A true jazz singer. And I regret that because that's the 'right way' to sing.
British singer Adele has credited Winehouse's success in the United States for making her and fellow British singer Duffy's journey to the United States "a bit smoother". American singer Lady Gaga credited Winehouse with paving the way for her rise to the top of the charts. She appeared to be using a metaphorical analogy to explain that Winehouse made it easier for unconventional women to have mainstream pop success. Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton, and John Legend said "Amy Winehouse was produced by people who wanted to create a marketing coup. The positive side is that it reacquainted an audience with this music and played an introductory role for others. This reinvigorated the genre by overcoming the vintage aspect".
After the release of Back to Black, record companies sought out female artists with a similar sound and fearless and experimental female musicians in general. Adele and Duffy were the second wave of artists with a sound similar to Winehouse's. A third wave of female musicians that has emerged since the album was released are led by V V Brown, Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Little Boots. In February 2010 rapper Jay-Z credited Winehouse with revitalising British music, saying, "There's a strong push coming out of London right now, which is great. It's been coming ever since I guess Amy (Winehouse). I mean always, but I think Amy, this resurgence was ushered in by Amy." In March 2011 the New York Daily News ran an article attributing the continuing wave of British female artists that have been successful in the United States to Winehouse and her absence. Spin magazine music editor Charles Aaron was quoted as saying "Amy Winehouse was the Nirvana moment for all these women," "They can all be traced back to her in terms of attitude, musical styles or fashion". According to Keith Caulfield, chart manager for Billboard, "Because of Amy, or the lack thereof, the marketplace was able to get singers like Adele and Duffy," "Now those ladies have brought on the new ones, like Eliza Doolittle, Rumer and Ellie."
Winehouse joined a campaign to stop a block of flats being built beside the George Tavern, a famous London East End music venue. Campaign supporters feared the residential development would end the spot's lucrative sideline as a film and photo location, on which it relies to survive. As part of a breast cancer awareness campaign, Winehouse appeared in a revealing photograph for the April 2008 issue of Easy Living magazine. Winehouse had an estimated £10m fortune, tying her for tenth place in the 2008 The Sunday Times listing of the wealth of musicians under age 30. The following year her fortune had dropped to an estimated £5m. Her finances are run by Mitch and Janis Winehouse. It was reported she earned about £1m singing at two private parties during Paris Fashion Week. as well as another £1m to perform at a Moscow Art Gallery for Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Winehouse loaned a vintage dress used in her video for "Tears Dry on Their Own" as well as a DVD to the British Music Experience, a new museum dedicated to the history of British pop music. The museum, located in The O2, opened on 9 March 2009.
In January 2009, Winehouse announced that she was launching her own record label. The first act on her Lioness Records is Winehouse's 13-year-old goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield. Her first album, featuring covers of classic soul records, was released on 12 October 2009. Winehouse is the backing singer on several tracks on the album and she performed backing vocals for Bromfield on the television programme Strictly Come Dancing on 10 October.
Winehouse and her family are the subject of a 2009 documentary shot by Daphne Barak titled Saving Amy. Winehouse entered into a joint venture in 2009 with EMI to launch a range of wrapping paper and gift cards containing song lyrics from her album Back to Black. On 8 January 2010, a television documentary, My Daughter Amy, aired on Channel 4. Saving Amy was released as a paperback book in January 2010.
Winehouse collaborated on a 17 piece fashion collection with the Fred Perry label. It was released for sale in October 2010. According to Fred Perry's marketing director "We had three major design meetings where she was closely involved in product style selection and the application of fabric, colour and styling details," and gave "crucial input on proportion, colour and fit". The collection consists of "vintage-inspired looks including Capri pants, a bowling dress, a trench coat, pencil skirts, a longline argyle sweater and a pink-and-black checkerboard-printed collared shirt". At the behest of her family, three forthcoming collections up to and including autumn/winter 2012 that she had designed prior to her death will be released.
With the paparazzi taking photographs of her wherever they could, Winehouse obtained an injunction against a leading paparazzi agency, Big Pictures, under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997; the resultant court order banned them from following her. Photographers were also banned from following her within 100 metres of her home and photographing Winehouse in her home or the homes of her friends and relatives. According to a newspaper report, sources close to the singer said legal action was taken out of concern for the safety of Winehouse and those close to her.
Winehouse dated chef-musician Alex Clare (sometimes referred to as Alex Claire) in 2006, while on a break with her on-off boyfriend and future husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Clare famously sold his story to the News of the World, which published it under the headline "Bondage Crazed Amy Just Can't Beehive in Bed".
She married Fielder-Civil (born August 1978), a former video production assistant, on 18 May 2007, in Miami Beach, Florida. Fielder-Civil had dropped out of Bourne Grammar School and moved to London at age 16 from his native Lincolnshire. In a June 2007 interview, Winehouse admitted she could sometimes be violent toward him after she had been drinking, saying "if he says one thing I don't like then I'll chin him". In August 2007, they were photographed, bloodied and bruised, in the streets of London after an alleged fight, although she contended her injuries were self-inflicted.
Winehouse's parents and in-laws publicly reported their numerous concerns, citing fears that the two might commit suicide, with Fielder-Civil's father encouraging fans to boycott her music. Fielder-Civil was quoted in a British tabloid as saying he introduced her to crack cocaine and heroin. During a visit with Mitch Winehouse at the prison in July 2008, Fielder-Civil reportedly said that they would cut themselves to ease the pain of withdrawal.
From 21 July 2008 to 25 February 2009, Fielder-Civil was imprisoned following his guilty plea on charges of trying to pervert the course of justice and of grievous bodily harm with intent. The incident, in July 2007, involved an assault on a pub landlord that resulted in a broken cheek. According to the prosecution the landlord accepted £200,000 as part of a deal to "effectively throw the [court] case and not turn up". The prosecution testified that the money used to pay off the landlord belonged to Winehouse, but that Winehouse pulled out of a meeting with the men involved in the plot, because she had to attend an awards ceremony.
Winehouse was spotted with aspiring actor Josh Bowman on holiday in Saint Lucia in early January 2009, saying she was "in love again, and I don't need drugs." She commented that the "whole marriage was based on doing drugs" and that "for the time being I've just forgotten I'm even married." On 12 January, Winehouse's spokesman confirmed that "papers have been received" for what Fielder-Civil's solicitor has said are divorce proceedings based on a claim of adultery. On 25 February, Blake Fielder-Civil was quoted as saying that he planned to continue divorce proceedings to give himself a drug-free fresh start. In March, Winehouse was quoted in a magazine as saying, "I still love Blake and I want him to move into my new house with me—that was my plan all along ... I won't let him divorce me. He's the male version of me and we're perfect for each other." Uncontested, the divorce was granted on 16 July 2009 and became final on 28 August 2009. Upon his request Fielder-Civil received no money in the settlement. She dated director Reg Traviss for approximately two years before her death.
Substance abuse and mental health issues
Winehouse's battles with substance abuse were the subject of much media attention. In 2005, she went through a period of drinking, heavy drug use, violent mood swings and weight loss. People who saw her during the end of that year and early 2006 reported a rebound that coincided with the writing of Back to Black. Her family believes that the mid-2006 death of her grandmother, who was a stabilising influence, set her off into addiction. In August 2007, Winehouse cancelled a number of shows in the UK and Europe, citing exhaustion and ill health. She was hospitalised during this period for what was reported as an overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol. In various interviews, she admitted to having such problems with self-harm, depression and eating disorders.
Winehouse told a magazine that the drugs were to blame for her hospitalisation and that "I really thought that it was over for me then." Soon afterward, Winehouse's father commented that when he had made public statements regarding her problems he was using the media because it seemed the only way to get through to her. In an interview with The Album Chart Show on British television, Winehouse said she was manic depressive and not alcoholic, adding that that sounded like "an alcoholic in denial". A U.S. reporter writes that Winehouse was a "victim of mental illness in a society that doesn't understand or respond to mental illness with great effectiveness".
On 2 December 2007, images of the singer outside her home in the early morning hours, barefoot and wearing only a bra and jeans, appeared on the internet and in tabloid newspapers. In a statement, her spokesman blamed paparazzi harassment for the incident. The spokesman reported that the singer was in a physician-supervised programme and was channelling her difficulties by writing a lot of music. The British tabloid The Sun posted a video of a woman, alleged to be Winehouse, apparently smoking crack cocaine and speaking of having taken ecstasy and valium. Winehouse's father moved in with her, and Island Records, her record label, announced the abandonment of plans for an American promotion campaign on her behalf. In late January 2008, Winehouse reportedly entered a rehabilitation facility for a two-week treatment program.
On 23 January 2008, the video was passed on to the Metropolitan Police, who questioned her on 5 February. No charges were brought. On 26 March 2008, Winehouse's spokesman said she was "doing well" and denied a published report in a British tabloid that consideration was being given to having her return to rehab. Her record company reportedly believed that her recovery remained fragile. By late April 2008, her erratic behaviour, including an allegation of assault, caused fear that her drug rehabilitation efforts had been unsuccessful, leading to efforts by Winehouse's father and manager to seek assistance in having her involuntarily committed. Her dishevelled appearance during and after a scheduled club night in September sparked new rumours of a relapse. Photographers were quoted as saying she appeared to have cuts on her legs and arms.
According to Winehouse's physician, Winehouse quit illegal substances in 2008. In an October 2010 interview, speaking of her decision to quit drugs, Winehouse said, "I literally woke up one day and was like, 'I don't want to do this any more'". Drinking alcohol emerged as a problem with Winehouse abstaining for a few weeks then lapsing. The physician said that Winehouse was treated with Librium for alcohol withdrawal and anxiety, and underwent psychological and psychiatric evaluations in 2010, but refused psychological therapy.
Violence and legal difficulties
In 2006, Winehouse admitted punching a female fan in the face for criticising her having taken Blake Fielder-Civil as a husband. She then attacked her own spouse as he attempted to calm her down, kneeing him in the crotch.
In October 2007, Winehouse and her then-husband were arrested in Bergen, Norway, for possession of seven grams of marijuana. The couple were later released and fined 3850 kroner (around £350). Winehouse first appealed the fines, claiming she was "duped" into confessing, but later dropped the appeal.
On 26 April 2008, Winehouse was cautioned after she admitted to police she slapped a 38-year-old man in the face, a "common assault" offence. She voluntarily turned herself in and was held overnight. Police said, at her arrival she was "in no fit state" to be interviewed.
Winehouse was arrested on 7 May 2008 on suspicion of possessing drugs after a video of her apparently smoking crack cocaine was passed to the police in January, but was released on bail a few hours later because they could not confirm, from the video, what she was smoking. The Crown Prosecution Service considered charging her with possessing a controlled drug and allowing her premises to be used for the supply by others of a controlled drug, but she was cleared when the service could not establish that the substance in the video was a controlled drug. In reaction to the decision, former police commander John O'Connor said it is an "absolute scandal that nothing could be done" about Winehouse "cocking a snook at the law". Some members of Parliament also reacted negatively. Two London residents were subsequently charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and ecstasy to Winehouse. One of the pair was sentenced to two years in prison on 13 December 2008, while the other received a two-year community order.
On 5 March 2009, Winehouse was arrested and charged with common assault following a claim by a woman that Winehouse hit her in the eye at a September 2008 Prince's Trust charity ball. At the same time, she was reported to have spat at the English socialite Pippa Middleton and to have headbutted a photographer. Winehouse's spokesperson announced the singer cancelled a scheduled United States Coachella Festival appearance in "light of current legal issues". Swearing in under her legal name of Amy Jade Civil, Winehouse appeared in court on 17 March to enter her plea of not guilty. On 23 July, her assault trial began with prosecutor Lyall Thompson charging that Winehouse acted with "deliberate and unjustifiable violence" while appearing to be under the influence of alcohol or another substance. The woman, Sharene Flash, testified that Winehouse "punched me forcefully in my right eye. She used a fist, her right one." Winehouse testified that she did not punch Flash, but tried to push Flash away from her because she was scared of Flash. Winehouse cited her worry that Flash would sell her story to a tabloid, Flash's height advantage, and Flash's "rude" behaviour as reasons for her fear of Flash. On 24 July, District Judge Timothy Workman ruled that Winehouse was not guilty of the charge. Workman cited the facts that all but two of the witnesses were intoxicated at the time of the incident and that medical evidence did not show "the sort of injury that often occurs when there is a forceful punch to the eye".
On 19 December 2009, Winehouse was arrested again on charges of common assault, plus another charge of public order offence. Winehouse assaulted the front-of-house manager of the Milton Keynes Theatre after he asked her to move from her seat. On 20 January 2010, she admitted common assault and disorderly behaviour. She was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 court costs and £100 compensation to the man she attacked.
On 23 June 2008, Winehouse's publicist corrected earlier misstatements by Mitch Winehouse that his daughter had early stage emphysema, instead claiming she had signs of what could lead to early-stage emphysema. Mitch Winehouse had also stated that his daughter's lungs were operating at 70 percent capacity and that she had an irregular heartbeat. Mitch Winehouse said that these problems had been caused by her chain smoking crack cocaine. The singer's father also reported that doctors had warned Winehouse that, if she continued smoking crack cocaine, she would have to wear an oxygen mask and would eventually die. In a radio interview, Mitch Winehouse said the singer was responding "fabulously" to treatment, which included being covered with nicotine patches. British Lung Foundation spokesman Keith Prowse noted this type of condition could be managed with treatment. Prowse also said the condition was not normal for a person her age but "heavy smoking and inhaling other substances like drugs can age the lungs prematurely". Norman H. Edelman of the American Lung Association explained that if she stopped smoking, her lung functions would decline at the rate of a normal person, but continued smoking would lead to a more rapid decline in lung function. Photographs of the singer with a cigarette in her mouth, taken 23 June 2008, were widely published.
Winehouse was released from The London Clinic 24 hours after returning from a temporary leave to perform at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday and at a concert in Glastonbury, and continued receiving treatment as an outpatient. In July 2008, Winehouse stated that she had been diagnosed with "some areas of emphysema" and said she is getting herself together by "eating loads of healthy food, sleeping loads, playing my guitar, making music and writing letters to my husband every day". She also kept a vertical tanning bed in her apartment. Winehouse began precautionary testing on her lungs and chest on 25 October 2008 at the London Clinic for what was reported as a chest infection. Winehouse was in and out of the facility and was granted permission to set her own schedule regarding home leave. She returned to the hospital on 23 November 2008 for a reported reaction to her medication.
Throughout her life Winehouse donated her money, music and time to many charities, particularly those concerned with children. She was once named "the most charitable act" by Pop World. While this side of her personality was never well known to the general public, throughout both the arts community and the charity community she was known for her generosity and was even known as a "soft touch". "Ask Amy and she'll do it" was a common phrase among the charity community in regards to Winehouse. Among the charities she generously supported are Adopt-A-Minefield, Anti-Slavery International, Breast Cancer Campaign, CARE (relief agency), Children of the Andes, Children's Medical Research Institute, Christian Children's Fund, City at Peace, Comic Relief, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Greenpeace, Healthlink Worldwide, Hear the World, Heifer International, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, the Red Cross, LIFEbeat, Lifeline and Rape Crisis PMB, Opportunity International, Oxfam, Rights and Humanity, Save the Children, Save the Music Foundation, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Teenage Cancer Trust, Christina Noble Children's Foundation, Little Dreams Foundation, Lotus Outreach, Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, UNHCR, UNICEF, V-Day, WaterAid, and World Neighbors.
In 2008, Winehouse appeared naked in an issue of Easy Living Magazine to raise awareness of breast cancer. In 2009 she appeared on a CD called Classics alongside musicians such as The Rolling Stones, The Killers and many Cuban musicians to raise awareness of climate change. In March 2011, Winehouse donated over £20,000 worth of clothes to a local charity shop in London.
In 2009, she paid for the medical tests for a man called Julian Jean DeBaptiste in St Lucia. "I had surgery on 1 July 2009 ... it cost a fortune and Amy paid for the whole thing. I tried to thank her but she just hugged me and told me not to say anything. Her generosity gave me my life back".
Winehouse began binge drinking in 2008 after kicking a drug habit. By summer 2011, she had fallen into a pattern of abstaining for a few weeks, and then relapsing. One such relapse led to her death by alcohol intoxication in the morning hours of 23 July 2011.
Winehouse's bodyguard said that he arrived at her residence three days before her death and felt she was somewhat intoxicated. He observed moderate drinking over the next few days. He observed her "laughing, listening to music and watching TV at 2 am the day of her death". According to the bodyguard, at 10 am he observed her lying on her bed and tried unsuccessfully to rouse her. This did not raise much suspicion because she usually slept late after a night out. According to the bodyguard, shortly after 3 pm, he checked on her again and observed her lying in the same position as before, leading to a further check in which he concluded she was not breathing and had no pulse. He said he subsequently called emergency services. At 3:54 pm BST on 23 July 2011, two ambulances were called to Winehouse's home in Camden, London. Winehouse was pronounced dead at the scene. Shortly afterwards, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that she had died. After her death was announced, media and camera crews appeared, as crowds gathered near Winehouse's residence to pay their respects. Forensic investigators entered the flat as police cordoned off the street outside. Police recovered one small and two large bottles of vodka from her room.
A coroner's inquest reached a verdict of misadventure. The report released on 26 October 2011 explained that Winehouse's blood alcohol content was 416 mg per 100ml (0.416%) at the time of her death, more than five times the legal drink-drive limit. According to the coroner, "The unintended consequences of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden death."
Winehouse's record label, Universal Republic, released a statement that read in part: "We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer." Many musical artists have since paid tribute to Winehouse including U2, M.I.A., Lady Gaga, Mutya Buena, Marianne Faithfull, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Keisha Buchanan, Rihanna, George Michael, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Courtney Love, and the American punk rock band Green Day, who wrote a song in her tribute titled "Amy." Family and friends attended Winehouse's funeral on 26 July 2011 at Edgwarebury Lane cemetery in north London. Her mother and father, Janis and Mitch Winehouse, close friend Kelly Osbourne, producer Mark Ronson and her boyfriend Reg Traviss were among those in attendance at the private service led by Rabbi Frank Hellner. Her father delivered the eulogy, saying "Goodnight, my angel, sleep tight. Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much." Carole King's "So Far Away" closed the service with mourners singing along. She was later cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. The family planned to sit a two-day shiva. Winehouse's parents set up a foundation in her name, to help those affected by drug addiction. Winehouse did not leave a will; her estate is inherited by her parents.
Winehouse's dichotomous public image of critical and commercial success versus personal turmoil proved to be controversial. The New Statesman called Winehouse "a filthy-mouthed, down-to-earth diva," while Newsweek called her "a perfect storm of sex kitten, raw talent and poor impulse control." Karen Heller with The Philadelphia Inquirer summarised the maelstrom this way:
She's only 24 with six Grammy nods, crashing headfirst into success and despair, with a codependent husband in jail, exhibitionist parents with questionable judgement, and the paparazzi documenting her emotional and physical distress. Meanwhile, a haute designer Karl Lagerfeld appropriates her dishevelled style and eating issues to market to the elite while proclaiming her the new Bardot.
By 2008, her continued drug problems threatened her career. Even as Nick Gatfield, the president of Island Records, toyed with the idea of releasing Winehouse "to deal with her problems", he remarked on her talent, saying, "It's a reflection of her status [in the U.S.] that when you flick through the TV coverage [of the Grammys] it's her image they use." Post-Grammys, some questioned whether Winehouse should have been honoured with the awards given her recent personal and drug problems, including Natalie Cole, who introduced Winehouse at the ceremony. Cole (who battled her own substance-abuse problems while winning a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1975) remarked, "I think the girl is talented, gifted, but it's not right for her to be able to have her cake and eat it too. She needs to get herself together." In an opinion newspaper commentary, Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that the alleged drug habits of Winehouse and other celebrities send a bad message "to others who are vulnerable to addiction" and undermine the efforts of other celebrities trying to raise awareness of problems in Africa, now that more cocaine used in Europe passes through Africa. Winehouse's spokesperson called Costa a "ludicrous man" and noted that "Amy has never given a quote about drugs or flaunted it in any way. She's had some problems and is trying to get better. The U.N. should get its own house in order." Following Winehouse's death William Bennett a former director of the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy criticised the Grammy Awards nominating committee along similar lines. Graeme Pearson, the former head of Scotland's drug enforcement agency, criticised Winehouse and Kate Moss for making going to rehab a badge of honour, thus giving the false impression that quitting drugs is easy, because many cannot afford to go to clinics.
Winehouse became a staple in popularity polls due not to her musical contributions, but her lifestyle. The 2008 NME Awards nominated Winehouse in the categories of "Villain of the Year", "Best Solo Artist", and "Best Music DVD"; Winehouse won for "Worst Dressed Performer". In its third annual list, Glamour magazine named Winehouse the third worst dressed British Woman. Winehouse was ranked number two on Richard Blackwell's 48th annual "Ten Worst Dressed Women" list, behind Victoria Beckham. In an April 2008 poll conducted by Sky News, Winehouse was named the second greatest "ultimate heroine" by the UK population at large, topping the voting for that category of those polled under 25 years old. Psychologist Donna Dawson commented that the results demonstrate women like Winehouse who have "a certain sense of vulnerability or have had to fight against some adversity in their lives" receive recognition. Winehouse was voted the second most hated personality in the United Kingdom in a poll conducted one month later by Marketing magazine.
Speaking at a discussion titled Winehouse or White House?: Do we go too big on showbiz news? Jeff Zycinski, head of BBC Radio Scotland, said the BBC and media in general were complicit in the destruction of celebrities like Winehouse. He said that public interest in the singer's lifestyle does not make her lifestyle newsworthy. Rod McKenzie editor of the BBC Radio One program Newsbeat replied that "If you play [Amy Winehouse's] music to a certain demographic, those same people want to know what's happening in her private life. If you don't cover it, you're insulting young license fee payers." The British artist M.I.A. was quoted in The Guardian in 2007 as saying she found Winehouse "really interesting", saying "I once saw her in the street and she was really out of it, so I guess she is really living it out. I think Amy's thing is feeling really weird about what she does and dealing with that." British singer and songwriter Lily Allen was quoted in a Scottish newspaper as saying "I know Amy Winehouse very well. And she is very different to what people portray her as being. Yes, she does get out of her mind on drugs sometimes, but she is also a very clever, intelligent, witty, funny person who can hold it together. You just don't see that side."
London's Mall Galleries opened an exhibition in May 2008 that included a sculpture of Winehouse, titled Excess. The piece, created by Guy Portelli, had a miniature of the singer lying on top of a cracked champagne bottle, with a pool of spilled liquid underneath. The body was covered with what appeared to be tiny pills, while one outstretched hand held a glass. Another piece, a print titled "Celebrity 1" by artist Charlotte Suckling, was exhibited in the same exhibition. A wax sculpture of Winehouse went on display at the London Madame Tussauds on 23 July 2008. The singer did not attend the unveiling, although her parents did. A sculpture by Marco Perego, titled "The Only Good Rock Star Is a Dead Rock Star", that depicts Winehouse lying in a pool of blood with an apple and a bullet hole in her head after being shot by American novelist and beat poet William S. Burroughs (in a recreation of the accidental killing of his wife Joan Vollmer), was scheduled to go on display in New York's Half Gallery on 14 November 2008. The sale price for the sculpture is listed at US $100,000. Perego said of the sculpture "Rock stars are the sacrificial animals of society." Winehouse's spokesperson said "It's a funny kind of tribute. The artist seems in thrall to a tabloid persona that is not the real Amy. People often use her image to sell their work."
Young British Artist Annemarie Wright created a tribute to the deceased 27-year-old, using the handwritten song lyrics from "Frank" and "Back to Black". This image has been permanently exhibited in the Adee Phelan salon, Birmingham.
- Studio albums
Awards and nominations
Among the awards and recognitions for Frank, Winehouse earned an Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song ("Stronger Than Me"), a BRIT Award nomination for Best Female Solo Artist, and an inclusion in Robert Dimery's 2006 book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Back to Black produced numerous nominations, including two BRIT Awards (Best Female Solo Artist and Best British Album), six Grammy Awards (including five wins), four Ivor Novello Awards, four MTV Europe Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, three World Music Awards, and was nominated for the Mercury Prize (Album of the Year) and a MOBO Awards (Best UK Female). During her career, Winehouse received 23 awards from 60 nominations. In February 2012, Winehouse was listed at number 26 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women In Music.
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