Remembering Amy Winehouse: One Year On
One year ago UK soul singer Amy Winehouse’s body was discovered in her Camden home. The singer, who had a notoriously turbulent history of alcohol and drug abuse, joined countless other musicians as part of the ill fated ’27 Club’, with extensive coroners reports finally concluding Winehouse passed away as a result of severe alcohol poisoning.
At only 27 years old, Winehouse was already a household name for both her compelling and at times searingly honest music and her constantly publicised battle with drug addiction, impacting both her personal relationships and her professional integrity.
Since her death, Mitch Winehouse – the singer’s cab-driving father – has inherited all public decision making, inheriting the rights to Amy’s estate. He’s begun a charity in Amy’s name, penned a book titled Amy, My Daughter, released a successful compilation of unreleased music and has even spoken of plans for further posthumous collections in the near future.
Released to meet the mourning masses’ demands, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, a compilation of previously unreleased recordings, shot straight to #1 on the UK charts; selling 1.7 million copies and becoming Winehouse’s highest charting debut album on the United States Billboard Top 200.
Most notably, the first single from the record “Body and Soul” featured a duet with jazz legend Tony Bennet, who praised Winehouse as one of the most accomplished female vocalists he had ever had the pleasure to work alongside in his long, illustrious career.
Mitch Winehouse has also hinted at further raiding the vaults for unreleased material, saying that fans are still interested in receiving more. “There are loads of covers,” Winehouse Sr. said of the unheard songs, “loads of them, but the problem is we don’t want want to rip anybody off. When her fans are so precious to us we don’t want to put out dross.”
Despite the obvious success of Lioness, Winehouse also mentioned talks of holograms – a la Coachella’s Tupac – to put his daughter on tour; treading a very fine line between honouring a successful career and tainting our collective memory for an artist.
Bits and pieces of incomplete, unreleased material, and exploitative puppet-like hologram shows could serve to ruin the legacy left behind, a legacy which runs deep.
Her influence and impact on female performers is difficult to measure, but it’s not unjustified to say that we can almost categorise a time of singers that was pre-Amy Winehouse and post-Amy Winehouse.
She revived soul music for a new generation, carving a path for the Duffys and Adeles of the world who would eventually walk it with the same blend of honesty and technique that Winehouse so effortlessly possessed.
It’s not for nothing that her timeless breakthrough album, 2006’s Back to Black, remains the UK’s best-selling album of the 21st century.
The record earned her six Grammy Award nominations, of which she won five, including record of the year and song of the year for “Rehab”. At the time this was the record for the most nominations by a female artist and she was also the first British female to win five Grammy Awards.
Countless other accolades adorn the soul mistress’ career, including a Brit Award for best female artist in 2007 and a nomination for the Mercury Prize for her 2003 debut record Frank, all serving to confirm the significant impact her career had on the global music community on a commercial as well as personal level.
Throughout her career, her father’s outspoken support for his daughter drew almost as much media attention as the singer’s own turbulent personal life. In a recent interview with Mitch Winehouse admitted that he blames Amy’s ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil for Amy’s descent into serious drug abuse.
“I blame Blake for her drug addiction” Mitch Winehouse told ABC News in a heartfelt interview.
“He stood up and said ‘I switched Amy on to Class A drugs.’ But not for her death. He [Blake] loved Amy. He would never in a million years have wanted this for Amy.”
Fielder-Civil and Winehouse eventually divorced in August 2009, following the filing of documents by Fielder-Civil and his attorney on the basis of ‘adultery’.
The importance of the relationship between the singer and her husband, is that it influenced what Winehouse would sing about as much as how she sang it.
Despite drawing negative publicity from critics and fans alike, as he was often blamed for the difficulties Winehouse faced throughout her battle with addiction; she has been often quoted as saying her husband had been her muse in writing Back to Black.
In many respects, it was her continual struggles that helped affirm her credibility as a soul singer. The harsh honesty of her lyrics and profound sentiment in her music was not a stage spectacle, but a real and ever-present part of the troubled singer’s life.
From these difficulties, she managed to convey a believability and connection with the subject matter that adorned her music and her personal life.
Regardless of her prolific history of substance abuse, legal run-ins and performance meltdowns, the intensity surrounding her controversial circumstances has seemed to simmer away in the twelve months since her death.
The world begins to show a steady appreciation for what it is that Winehouse really leaves behind: her incredible talent and impact.
What remains is a profound musical legacy, which serves only to highlight the ultimate tragedy of losing a talent that the world was so briefly gifted to witness.
Yep, we all know the expression ‘live fast, die young, leave a pretty corpse’. Rock n’ roll is littered with casualties who embodied this aphorism, dying young by their own hand, at the hands of others, of booze, or drugs or even the odd bizarre gardening accident (Jeff Pocaro of Toto – we’re looking at you...) Amongst all these pretty young corpses, it seems as society we’re most fascinated by what Kurt Cobain’s Mum called ‘The Stupid Club’, those who died at 27 – many appearing to be at the peak of their creative powers and with their stars shining most brightly. These rock stars seem to retain their allure years, if not decades, after they die. They appear on t-shirts, posters, in fashion campaigns, in artwork, they get name checked in songs and books and the media feeds voraciously on them. Yep, they’re forever young. Watch this slideshow »