Winehouse performing in June 2007.
|Born||Amy Jade Winehouse
14 September 1983
Southgate, London, England
|Died||23 July 2011
Camden, London, England
|Cause of death||Alcohol poisoning|
|Resting place||Edgwarebury Cemetery, Edgware, London|
|Spouse(s)||Blake Fielder-Civil (m. 2007; div. 2009)|
Amy Jade Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter known for her deep vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul (sometimes labelled as blue-eyed soul), rhythm and blues, jazz and reggae. Winehouse's 2003 debut album, Frank, was a critical success in the UK and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her 2006 follow-up album, Back to Black, led to five 2008 Grammy Awards, tying the then record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made her the first British female to win five Grammys, including three of the general field "Big Four" awards: Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Winehouse won three Ivor Novello Awards: in 2004, Best Contemporary Song for "Stronger Than Me"; in 2007, Best Contemporary Song again, this time for "Rehab"; and in 2008, Best Song Musically and Lyrically for "Love Is a Losing Game." She won the 2007 Brit Award for Best British Female artist, having also been nominated for Best British Album, with Back to Black.
Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on 23 July 2011 at age 27. Her album Back to Black posthumously became the UK's best-selling album of the 21st century, at that point. In 2012, Winehouse was ranked 26th on VH1's 100 Greatest Women In Music. The BBC has called her "the pre-eminent vocal talent of her generation."
- 1 Early life
- 2 Musical career
- 3 Image
- 4 Other ventures
- 5 Controversy
- 6 Awards and nominations
- 7 Charity work
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Personal life
- 10 Death
- 11 Postmortem retrospectives
- 12 Discography
- 13 Filmography
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
Amy Winehouse was born in Chase Farm Hospital in north London, to Jewish parents. Her father, Mitchell "Mitch" Winehouse, was a window panel installer then a taxi driver; her mother, Janis Winehouse (née Seaton), a pharmacist. Amy had an older brother, Alex (born 1979), and the family lived in London's Southgate area.
Many of Winehouse's maternal uncles were professional jazz musicians. Amy's paternal grandmother, Cynthia, was a singer and dated English jazz legend Ronnie Scott. She and Amy's parents influenced Amy's interest in jazz. Her father Mitch often sang Frank Sinatra songs to her, and whenever she got chastised at school she would sing "Fly Me to the Moon" before going up to the headmistress to be told off. Winehouse's parents separated when she was nine, and she lived with her mother and stayed with her father and his girlfriend in Hatfield Heath, Essex on weekends.
In 1992 her grandmother Cynthia suggested she attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School, where she went on Saturdays to further her vocal education and to learn to tap dance. She attended the 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. Winehouse was allegedly expelled at 14 for "not applying herself" and also for piercing her nose. Sylvia Young 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"—as has Mitch Winehouse. 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; Osidge JMI School and then Ashmole School.
After toying around with her brother Alex's guitar, Winehouse bought her own when she was 14 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, the latter whom she was already listening to at home. Amy's best friend, soul singer Tyler James, sent her demo tape to an A&R person. Winehouse signed to Simon Fuller's 19 Management in 2002 and was paid £250 a week against future earnings. While being developed by the management company, she was kept as a recording industry secret although she was a regular jazz standards singer at the Cobden Club. 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, 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.
2003–05: Debut album 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, Winehouse co-wrote every song. 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 and Remi won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song, for their first single together, "Stronger Than Me." The album was also shortlisted for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. In the same year, she performed at the Glastonbury Festival – Jazzworld, the V Festival and the Montreal International Jazz Festival (7 July 2004, at the Club Soda). After the release of the album, Winehouse commented that she was "only 80 percent behind [the] album" because Island Records had overruled her preferences for the songs and mixes to be included. Further singles from the album were "Take the Box," "In My Bed"/"You Sent Me Flying" and "Pumps"/"Help Yourself."
2006–07: 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. Mitch Winehouse relates in Amy, My Daughter how fascinating watching her process was: her perfectionism in the studio and how she would put what she had sung on a CD and play it in his taxi outside to know how most people would hear her music. In May 2006, Winehouse's demo 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, completed in five months, 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. She in turn thought that when they first met, he was a sound engineer and that he was expecting an older man with a beard. 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 for two weeks in January 2007, dropping then climbing back for several weeks in February. In the US, it entered at number seven on the Billboard 200. It was the best-selling album in the UK of 2007, selling 1.85 million copies over the course of the year.
The album spawned a number of hit 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" 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 Shepherd's 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. "Valerie" 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 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, performing headliners in September and November 2006, including a Little Noise Sessions charity concert at the Union Chapel in Islington, North London. On 31 December 2006, Winehouse appeared on Jools Holland's Annual Hootenanny live on the BBC 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 fourteen gigs beginning in February 2007. At his request, Hollywood star Bruce Willis introduced Winehouse before her performance of "Rehab" at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards in Universal City, California. She had made awards organizers nervous when she went on a Las Vegas jaunt in the hours before the show. During the summer of 2007, she performed at various festivals, including the Isle of Wight Festival and Glastonbury Festival in England, Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, Belgium's Rock Werchter and Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore.
The rest of her 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 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 in London 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 the year, citing her doctor's 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. Mitch Winehouse wrote about her nervousness before public performances in his 2012 book, Amy, My Daughter.
2008: Continued success and acclaim
On 13 January 2008, Back to Black held the number-one position on the Billboard Pan European charts for the third consecutive week. 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 February 2008, the singer also won Grammy Awards in the following categories: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single "Rehab," and Best Pop Vocal Album. Additionally, Back to Black was nominated for Album of the Year. Ronson's work with her won the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, in the non-classical category. The singer also earned a Grammy as Best New Artist, earning her an entry in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act. She ended her acceptance speech for Record of the Year with, "This is for London because Camden town ain't burning down," in reference to the Camden Market fire. Winehouse was forced to perform "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" for the awards ceremony via satellite, as her visa approval had not been processed in time.
After the Grammys, the album's sales increased, catapulting Back to Black to number two on the US Billboard 200, after it initially peaked in the seventh position. A special deluxe edition of Back to Black topped the UK album charts on 2 March 2008. Meanwhile, the original edition of the album was ranked at number 30 in its 68th week on the charts, while Frank charted at number 35.
In Paris, she performed what was described as a "well-executed 40-minute" set at the opening of a Fendi boutique in early March. By 12 March, the album had sold a total of 2,467,575 copies—318,350 copies had been sold 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 in the top position of the pan-European charts for the sixth consecutive and thirteenth aggregate week. 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, people who helped her achieve success, jazz music experts, and music and pop-culture specialists.
At the 2008 Ivor Novello Awards in May, Winehouse became the first-ever 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 also nominated for a 2008 MTV Europe Award in the "Act of the Year" category.
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 Bestival's Saturday headliner, where her performance was described as polished—terminated by a curfew as the show running overdue, after Winehouse started an hour late—and her storming off stage.
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 and Mary J. Blige, and then finished with Winehouse.
Back to Black was the world's seventh-biggest-selling album of 2008. The album's sales helped meant that the market performance of Universal Music's recorded music division did not drop to levels experienced by the overall music market.
2009–11: Final projects before death
In a poll of U.S. residents conducted for VisitBritain by Harris Interactive, the results of which were 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.
Winehouse and 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 Questlove of The Roots had agreed to form a group but her problems obtaining a visa delayed their working together: Salaam Remi had already created some material with Winehouse as part of the project. According to The Times, Universal Music pressed her for new material in 2008, and Winehouse as of 2 September had not been near a recording studio. 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.
In May 2009 Winehouse returned to performing at a jazz festival in Saint Lucia amid torrential downpours and technical difficulties. During her 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 the set 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." During her stay in Saint Lucia, she also worked on new music with Salaam Remi. Island claimed that a new album would be due in 2010 with Island co-president Darcus Beese saying, "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." Ronson said the same month however that he had not started to record the album. She performed "Valerie" with Ronson at a movie premiere but forgot some of the song's lyrics. In October Winehouse performed a four-song set to promote her fashion line. In December 2010, she played a 40-minute concert at a Russian oligarch's party in Moscow, the tycoon hand picking the songs.
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 twelve-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 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 appearance on stage to support her goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield, who was singing "Mama Said" with The Wanted.
Winehouse died on 23 July 2011. On the week of 26 July 2011, 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 Hot 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 UK in the twenty-first century.
Winehouse's last recording was a duet with American singer Tony Bennett for his latest album, Duets II, 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" 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.
An album of previously unreleased material, titled Lioness: Hidden Treasures, was released on 6 December 2011. It debuted at the top of the UK Albums Chart with the biggest first-week sales of Winehouse's career. It debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, selling 114,000 units, making it her highest-debuting album in the US.
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 style reporter, Guy Trebay, discussed the multiplicity of influences on Winehouse's style after her death. Trebay noted, "her stylish husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, may have influenced her look." Additionally, Trebay observed:
- 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 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.
Former Rolling Stone editor Joe Levy, who had put her on the magazine's cover, broke her look down this way:
- Just as her best music drew on sampling — assembling sonic licks and stylistic fragments borrowed from Motown, Stax, punk and early hip-hop — her personal style was also a knowing collage. There was a certain moment in the '90s when, if you were headed downtown and turned left, every girl looked like Bettie Page. But they did not do what Winehouse did, mixing Bettie Page with Brigitte Bardot and adding that little bit of Ronnie Spector.
Mitch Winehouse later revealed that the influence for the bold red lipstick, thick eyebrows and heavy eyeliner came from Latinas she saw in Miami, on her trip there to work with Salaam Remi on Back to Black. This same look, however, was repeatedly denigrated by the British press. At the same time that the NME Awards nominated Winehouse in the categories of "Best Solo Artist" and "Best Music DVD" in 2008, they awarded her "Worst Dressed Performer." Winehouse was also ranked number two on Richard Blackwell's 48th annual "Ten Worst Dressed Women" list, behind Victoria Beckham.
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.
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 nominations, 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 and who herself battled substance-abuse problems while winning a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1975. (Winehouse was prevented from traveling to and performing at the Grammy Awards ceremony in the US due to failing a drug test.) In a newspaper commentary, the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, 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 that continent. Winehouse's spokesperson 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."
It has been argued that Winehouse became a staple in popularity polls due not to her musical contributions, but her lifestyle. There is her own record company saying in January 2008, it believed that there was a connection between the number of albums Winehouse has sold and the extensive media coverage she had received. 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.
In July 2008, BBC Radio Scotland's head, Jeff Zycinski, stated that the BBC, and media in general, were complicit in undermining celebrities, including Winehouse. He said that public interest in the singer's lifestyle did not make her lifestyle newsworthy. Rod McKenzie, editor of the BBC Radio One programme Newsbeat, replied – "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." In The Scotsman, British singer and songwriter Lily Allen was quoted to have said – "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."
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. On 13 February 2012, Winehouse was ranked 26th on VH1's 100 Greatest Women In Music list.
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, 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 2012, it was revealed that she had paid for the medical tests for a man called Julian Jean DeBaptiste in Saint Lucia in 2009. "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."
Artwork and Tussauds wax figure
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 shown 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 with a sale price of US$100,000. Perego said of the sculpture: "Rock stars are the sacrificial animals of society." Winehouse's spokesperson stated: "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."
On 14 September 2014 (which would've been Winehouse's 31st birthday), a statue was unveiled of her, which was created by sculptor Scott Eaton, at Stables Market in Camden Town, north London. Fans and relatives gathered for the unveiling in Camden's Stable Market, where it will be a permanent memorial to the singer. London-based Eaton, who sculpted the piece after being introduced to Amy's father Mitch, said the statue was meant to capture her "attitude and strength, but also give subtle hints of insecurity."
The next generation
British singer Adele has credited Winehouse's success in making her and fellow British singer Duffy's journey to the United States "a bit smoother." Lady Gaga credited Winehouse with paving the way for her rise to the top of the charts, explaining 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."
Other artists that have credited Winehouse as a major influence as well for paving the way for them include Ellie Goulding, Jessie J, Emeli Sandé, Misha B, Paloma Faith, Lana Del Rey, Florence Welch and Estelle.
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 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, Estelle and Duffy," "Now those ladies have brought on the new ones, like Eliza Doolittle, Rumer and Ellie."
Amy Winehouse Foundation
After the singer's death by alcohol intoxication in July 2011, the Amy Winehouse Foundation was set up by Winehouse's family and launched on 14 September 2011 (which would have been Winehouse's 28th birthday). Its aim is to help young people and it works with other charitable organisations to provide frontline support. Its central office is in North London, but it also has an office in New York (operating under the name 'The Amy Winehouse Foundation US'). Both Jon Snow and Barbara Windsor are patrons for the charity, and ambassadors include English actress Keira Chaplin and Mica Paris. The charity itself works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people and it also aims to support, inform and inspire vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to help them reach their full potential.
On 8 February 2015, it was announced that an upcoming documentary film, Amy, will be released in theaters. A trailer debuted at the pre-Grammy event in the buildup to the 2015 Grammy Awards. David Joseph, CEO of Universal Music UK stated: "About two years ago we decided to make a movie about her — her career and her life. It's a very complicated and tender movie. It tackles lots of things about family and media, fame, addiction, but most importantly, it captures the very heart of what she was about, which is an amazing person and a true musical genius." The movie was released in the United Kingdom on 3 July and worldwide on 10 July. The film received its premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival on 16 May and has been reviewed as "a tragic masterpiece", "brilliant", "heartbreaking" and "unmissable".
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. They lived together briefly, and in a pattern that Fielder-Civil would only repeat, 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." 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. She married Fielder-Civil (born August 1978), a former video production assistant, on 18 May 2007, in Miami Beach, Florida.
Winehouse's parents and in-laws publicly reported their numerous concerns, the latter citing fears that the two might commit suicide. Fielder-Civil's father encouraging fans to boycott her music, with Mitch Winehouse saying this would not help. 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," testifying that the money belonged to Winehouse, but that she pulled out of a meeting with the men involved in the plot, to attend an awards ceremony. Mitch Winehouse, as manager of her money, has denied the money came from his daughter.
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. 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. Fielder-Civil received no money in the settlement.
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, 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 US 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."
In December 2007, Winehouse's 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." 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. In October 2007, Winehouse and Fielder-Civil 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, 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, her first of two. She voluntarily turned herself in and was held overnight. Police said, at her arrival she was "in no fit state" to be interviewed. Ten days later, Winehouse was arrested 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, but cleared her when it could not establish that the substance in the video was a controlled drug. Some members of Parliament 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 Sharene Flash that Winehouse hit her in the eye at the September 2008 Prince's Trust charity ball. Winehouse's spokesperson announced the cancellation of the singer's US Coachella Festival appearance in light of the new legal issue, and Winehouse appeared in court on 17 March to enter her plea of not guilty. On 23 July, her 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. She testified that she did not punch Flash, but tried to push her away because she was scared of her; she cited her worry that Flash would sell her story to a tabloid, Flash's height advantage, and Flash's "rude" behaviour. On 24 July, District Judge Timothy Workman ruled that Winehouse was not guilty, citing 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 for a third time on charges of common assault, plus another charge of public order offence after assaulting the front-of-house manager of the Milton Keynes Theatre after he asked her to move from her seat.
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.
Respiratory and other health problems
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. He 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.
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.
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 a.m. the day of her death". According to the bodyguard, at 10 a.m. 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 p.m., he checked on her again and observed her lying in the same position as before, leading to a further check, in which he concluded that she was not breathing and had no pulse. He said he subsequently called emergency services.
At 3:54 p.m. 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; they recovered one small and two large bottles of vodka from her room. After her death, the singer broke her second Guinness World Record: for the most songs by a woman to simultaneously appear on the UK singles chart, with eight.
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 100 ml (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, Marianne Faithfull, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Keisha Buchanan, Rihanna, George Michael, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Courtney Love, and the punk rock band Green Day, who wrote a song in her tribute titled "Amy". In her 2012 album Banga, singer Patti Smith released "This Is the Girl," written as a homage to Winehouse. Mark Ronson dedicated his UK number one album Uptown Special to Winehouse, stating: "I'm always thinking of you and inspired by you." Because she died seventeen years after Kurt Cobain's death, there was a large amount of media attention devoted to the 27 Club once again. Three years earlier, she had expressed a fear of dying at that age.
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 The Amy Winehouse Foundation to prevent harm from drug misuse among young people, and Amy Winehouse's brother Alex is an employee. Winehouse did not leave a will; her estate is inherited by her parents.
On 17 December 2012, British authorities reopened the probe of Winehouse's death. On 8 January 2013, a second inquest confirmed that Winehouse died of accidental alcohol poisoning. In a late June 2013 interview, Alex Winehouse revealed his belief that his sister's eating disorder, and the consequent physical weakness, was the primary cause of her death:
She suffered from bulimia very badly. That's not, like, a revelation – you knew just by looking at her… She would have died eventually, the way she was going, but what really killed her was the bulimia… I think that it left her weaker and more susceptible. Had she not had an eating disorder, she would have been physically stronger.
Her father published a biography, entitled Amy: My Daughter, in 2012 and all proceeds are donated to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. In the book's introduction, he explained: "Apart from being her father, I was also her friend, confidant and adviser—not that she always took my advice, but she always heard me out."
A report in April 2013 announced that Winehouse will be the subject of a documentary to be directed by Asif Kapadia and produced by James Gay-Rees, Kapadia and Universal Music. Kapadia and Gay-Rees introduced the project at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The film, entitled Amy, debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
An exhibit of Winehouse's personal items, entitled Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait, was on display at the London Jewish Museum until 15 September 2013. Display items, such as books and music, were featured together with captions that were written by Winehouse's brother.
In late 2011, there were reports that Winehouse's former boyfriend, Reg Traviss, was developing a film about her. Winehouse's father Mitch Winehouse, who owns the copyright to his daughter's music, said he would not authorize the use of her music for the film.
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- News items
- Anderman, Joan (16 December 2007). Of course she should go to rehab at the Wayback Machine (archived 24 June 2007). The Boston Globe.
- Grimwood, Ben (28 January 2008). Amy Winehouse's sobering transformation could hurt her musical credibility at the Wayback Machine (archived 1 December 2007). College News.
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- Smith, Joan (26 June 2008). There's nothing poetic about Amy's self-destruction at the Wayback Machine (archived 1 December 2007). The Independent.
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- Vernon, Polly (October 2010). "Amy Winehouse: Unplugged". Harper's Bazaar.
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