It was said by all who worked with Amy Tony Bennett that she never sang or played a song the same way twice. Amy Winehouse’s public image of critical and commercial success versus personal turmoil proved to be controversial. Some newspapers called Amy Winehouse “a filthymouthed, down-to-earth diva,” while others described her as “a perfect storm of sex kitten, raw talent and poor impulse control.” In fact, she was very young and the First British female to win 5 Grammys, including three of the “Big Four:” Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. She was lost between success and despair, with a codependent husband in jail, under the spotlight parents, and paparazzi documenting her emotional life and physical weaknesses.
…Now that she’s gone, Amy Winehouse is credited as an influence in the rise in popularity of female musicians and soul music, and also for revitalising British music.
“I died a hundred times…” and still, she says “no, no, no…” Just like a phoenix, Amy is reborn out of ashes, out of dust, in her fans’ conquered hearts.
She remains without question one of the most talented, original, and best loved artists to emerge in popular music for decades, as Amy will always be known for extraordinary powers as a songwriter, a singer and an interpreter of classics.
Who was she?
Amy Winehouse was an English singersongwriter known for her powerful deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres including R&B, soul and jazz. Amy 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 then the 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 Â«Big FourÂ»: Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
How did she get started?
Amy Winehouse was born in North London. Her brother Alex was four years older. Her father Mitch often sang Frank Sinatra songs to young Amy, who also took to a habit of singing to the point that teachers found it difficult keeping her quiet in class. Amy’s parents separated when she was nine.
Her grandmother Cynthia, suggested she attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School for further training. At 10 years old, Amy Winehouse founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet ‘n’ Sour with childhood friend Juliette Ashby. She stayed at the Earnshaw school for four years before seeking full-time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School, but was expelled at 14 for Â«not applying herselfÂ» and for piercing her nose. She later attended other schools and appeared in TV shows.
Rocking debut in the music field!
After toying with her brother’s guitar, Amy received her first guitar when she was 13, and began writing music a year later. She began working soon after as an entertainment journalist for the World Entertainment News Network and singing with local group the Bolsha Band. In July 2000, she became the featured female vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, where her influences included 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. Her future A&R representative at Island/Universal, Darcus Beese, heard her by accident when the manager of The Lewinson Brothers showed him some productions of his clients on which Winehouse featured as vocalist. He asked who the singer was, and by that time, Amy had already recorded a number of songs and signed a publishing deal with EMI.
Amy Winehouse’s greatest love was 1960s girl groups. Her stylist Alex Foden borrowed her “instantly recognisable” beehive hairdo and she borrowed her Cleopatra makeup from The Ronettes. Her imitation was so successful, 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 Amy 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.” Besides, a haute designer, Karl Lagerfeld appropriated her unique style and eating issues to market to the elite while proclaiming her the new Bardot.
Amy was found dead on 23 July 2011, at her home in London, and it was ruled that alcohol poisoning was the cause of death. Her family and friends attended her funeral on 26 July 2011. In August 2011 her album Back to Black became the UK’s best selling album of the 21st century.
Amy Winehouse’s final recording, a duet entitled “Body and Soul” with Tony Bennett, was released on 14 September 2011 to commemorate what would have been her 28th birthday.
Amy’s Back to Black dress goes to auction
The original dress worn by Amy on the cover of ‘Back to Black’ will go on sale at auction on November 29th 2011. All proceeds raised by the sale will go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Sold in aid of the Amy Winehouse Foundation The Disaya printed chiffon dress worn by Amy Winehouse for the cover of `Back to Black’, 2006, with engraved gilt metal Disaya label, the short dress printed with bands of graduated darkred polka dots, the corset-like bodice with under-wiring and central lace bow insertion and waistband, elasticated puff-ball skirt, UK size 8, bust approx 8286-cm, 3234-in, the high waist 71cm, 28in; together with a letter of authenticity signed by the designer – Disaya, (2) Provenance: In 2006, the young St Martins trained, Thai based designer Disaya was approached by her British PR agent with a request for the loan of a dress for Miss Winehouse’s photo-shoot. This request came via his friend, Louise Winwood, who was Amy’s stylist at the time and was working on the album cover project for Universal Island Records. Although this was Amy Winehouse’s second album (she was re-launching her career after a break) there was reluctance on the part of many of the leading fashion designers initially approached to assist. However, Disaya was happy to help as she was launching her new label in the UK and felt that the young, innovative designs would be a good match. The photoshoot took place in the photographer Mischa Richter’s house. Louise took over a selection of clothes for Amy to try, and they both agreed that this dress suited her best. After the photo-shoot the dress was returned to the designer and carefully stored in the Disaya archive. The album went on to sell over 3.2 million copies. In the light of Amy’s untimely death Disaya has decided that rather than keep the dress stored away, that it should be sold and the money raised used by the Amy Winehouse Foundation to benefit young people in need in the UK and overseas.
The Amy Winehouse Foundation
“The Amy Winehouse Foundation has been set up in Amy’s memory to support charitable activities in both the UK and abroad that provide help, support or care for young people, especially those who are in need by reason of ill health, disability, ï¬nancial disadvantage or addiction.” Mitch, (Amy’s Dad)
Amy’s previous albums:
Frank (2003) Back to Black (2006) 6 Grammy Awards nominations 5 wins
Awards and nominations
During her career, Amy Winehouse received 23 awards from 60 nominations.
2006 Back to Black album: 6 Grammy Award nominations and 5 wins
February 14th, 2007: BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist and nominated for Best British Album. Ivor Novello Award three times, one in 2004 for Best Contemporary Song (musically and lyrically) for “Stronger Than Me”, one in 2007 for Best Contemporary Song for “Rehab”, and one in 2008 for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for “Love Is a Losing Game.”
Inclusion in Robert Dimery’s 2006 book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Four nominations from the MTV Europe Music Awards, three from the MTV Video Music Awards, three from the World Music Awards, and one each from the Mercury Prize (Album of the Year) and MOBO Awards (Best UK Female).
Developing full track-listing:
“Our Day Will Come (Reggae Version)” – reggae re-working of classic 60′s doo wop song produced by Salaam Remi. Recorded May 2002.
“Between The Cheats” – new Amy composition recorded in London in May 2008 for potential inclusion on album three produced by Salaam Remi.
“Tears Dry” – originally written by Amy as a ballad, this is the original version she recorded in November 2005 in Miami with Salaam. The later uptempo version appears on “Back To Black”.
“Wake Up Alone” – the first song recorded for the “Back To Black” sessions. This is the one-take demo recorded in March 2006 by Paul O’Duffy.
“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” – Amy’s beautiful reading of the Carole King written Shirelles classic. Produced by Mark Ronson and featuring the Dap Kings with string arrangements by Chris Elliott who did all the strings for Mark’s tracks on “Back To Black”. Recorded in September 2004.
“Valerie” – one of Amy’s jukebox favourites. This is the original slower tempo version of the Mark Ronson produced post “Back To Black” single. Recorded in December 2006.
“Like Smoke” featuring NAS – Amy and Nas became really good friends after Amy name checked the New York rapper on “Back To Black’s” “Me & Mr Jones”. “Like Smoke” is finally Amy doing a song with one of her favourite artists. Produced by Salaam Remi. Recorded in May 2008.
“The Girl From Ipanema” – the first song the 18 year old Amy sang when she first went to Miami to record with Salaam. Salaam remarked that “the way she re-interpreted this bossa nova classic made me realise that I was dealing with a very special talent. Her approach to the song was so young and fresh, it really inspired the rest of our sessions.” Recorded in May 2002.
“Halftime” – Amy had talked to Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson of the Roots about working together. “Halftime” is a song that Amy and Salaam had worked on since the Frank sessions. The result is beautiful. Recorded in August 2002.
“Best Friends” – “Frank” era live set opener produced by Salaam Remi. Probably the first song that early Amy fans would have heard live. Recorded in February 2003.
“Body & Soul” with Tony Bennett – cover of 30′s jazz standard with hero Tony Bennett. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios London in March 2011 and produced by Phil Ramone. Amy’s final studio recording.
“A Song For You” – heartbreaking and emotional version of the Leon Russell classic made famous by Donny Hathaway. Hathaway was Amy’s alltime favourite artist and the song was recorded in one take, just Amy and her guitar, at her home in London during the spring of 2009 as she battled her demons. Produced by Salaam Remi.
Lioness… reborn out of ashes…
Following Amy’s tragic passing in July, some of the producers and musicians who worked closely with Amy Winehouse, among them Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, spent time listening over the many recordings that Amy had made, before, during, and after the release of “Frank” and “Back To Black”.
It quickly became apparent to Salaam and Mark that they had a collection of songs that deserved to be heard, a collection of songs that were a fitting testament to Amy the artist and, as importantly, Amy their friend.
“Lioness : Hidden Treasures”, the third album from Amy Winehouse, with a 12 track-collection, features previously unreleased tracks, alternate versions of existing classics as well as a couple of brand new Amy compositions, and has been compiled by long-time musical partners Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson in close association with Amy’s family, management and record label Island Records. “Lioness : Hidden Treasures” proves a fitting tribute to the artist, the talent and the woman.
About Amy’s third album:
“I spent so much time chasing after Amy, telling her off that I never realized what a true genius she was. It wasn’t until I sat down with the rest of the family and listened to this album that I fully appreciated the breadth of Amy’s talent, from jazz standards to hip hop songs, it really took my breath away. “Halftime”, I’d never heard before, is just incredibly beautiful. If the family had felt that this album wasn’t up to the standard of “Frank” and “Back To Black” we would never have agreed to release it and we believe it will stand as a fitting tribute to Amy ‘s musical legacy.” Mitch Winehouse, Amy’s dad.