Amy Winehouse (14 September 1983 - 23 July 2011) was one of the greatest singers of our generation, made famous by her eclectic music, incorporating RnB, soul and jazz.
However, she was also famous for the party lifestyle she led and her descent into drug and alcohol addiction, which led to her untimely death in July 2011.
She will always be remembered as a young talent, who put life and originality back into the music world and for making her trademark hairstyle, the 1960’s beehive, popular again.
Amy Jade Winehouse was born on 14 September 1983 in Southgate, near Enfield in North London.
She was born into a Jewish family. Her father, Mitchell, is a taxi driver and her mother, Janis is a pharmacist. She also had an older brother, Alex, who was four years older.
Amy was interested in the Arts from a young age. At the age of 8 she started singing lessons at the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and at the age of 10, she formed a rap group called “Sweet ‘N’ Sour” with her childhood friend, Juliette Ashby.
At the age of 14, she enrolled in the “Sylvia Young Theatre School”, but was expelled because of her look and nose piercing. She went on to study at the BRIT School in Croydon, South London.
Amy had her first taste of celebrity as a reporter on celebrities for the World Entertainment News Network. At the same time, she was a featured vocalist for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. It was around this time that her then boyfriend, Tyler James, sent one of her demo CDs to the record label Island/Universal. They were so impressed by her voice she was immediately offered a record deal.
Amy recorded her first album, “Frank”, in 2003. The album had a lot of jazz influence and all the songs on the album, bar two covers, were written by Amy.
Her soul voice really came through on the album, with critics comparing her voice to that of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.
The album was a huge hit in the UK and went platinum in 2004. In the same year Amy was nominated for two BRIT awards for “British Female Solo Artist” and “British Urban Act”.
The album was also nominated for the very prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
Encouraged by the success of her first album, Amy recorded her second album, “Back To Black”, in 2006, produced by Mark Ronson and Salaami Remo.
In contrast to the jazz influences on her first album, the second album took its influences from the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s.
The album was a major hit, with the singles, “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good”, released on the back of the album, making it to number 1 in the UK and the US. The album also became the highest selling album in the UK in 2007.
Amy’s success from “Back To Black” earned her a host of awards, including Grammy Awards in 2008 for “Record of the Year”, “Song of the Year” and “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance”.
The album was nominated for “Best Album of the Year” and won the award for “Best Pop Vocal Album”. The album also earned Amy a placed in the Guinness Book of Records for the most Grammy Awards won by a female British artist.
However, amid all her success, Amy was fighting a battle against drug and alcohol addiction and eating disorders, which had started in 2005, but which she seemed to have come through in 2006.
However, she had a relapse in 2006, following her grandmother’s death and was hospitalized for taking an overdose of a cocktail of illegal drugs.
Her problems continued when she married video production assistant, Blake Fielder-Civil in 2007.
Their relationship was at best tumultuous, with fights breaking out between the couple in the street, allegedly leaving both bloodied and bruised.
Amy talked about the inspiration for the tracks “You Know I’m No Good” and “Back To Black” on the “Back to Black” album coming from her relationship with Fielder-Civil.
The couple separated in 2008 when Blake went to prison for “perverting the course of justice”, following a brawl in a pub, where it was alleged he paid the landlord not to give evidence at his trial.
The money was allegedly from Amy, however she denied this. The couple finally divorced in 2009 following pleas from both their parents to end the relationship. On hearing of her death, Fielder-Civil was inconsolable and blamed himself for her death.
Following several stints in various rehab clinics, Amy Winehouse appeared to have put her demons to rest by the end of 2008.
In January 2009, she went on holiday to the island of St. Lucia where she was photographed with aspiring actor Josh Bowman, who it was rumoured was the new love of her life.
The singer was happy and looking as if she had put her tormented past behind her. However, this was a short lived romance. She then went on to date director Reg Traviss.
However, on 23 July 2011 the world was shocked by the announcement of the death of Amy Winehouse, from suspected alcohol poisoning.
The coroner recorded a verdict of “misadventure”, however this is currently in the review process owing to the issue of the coroner’s experience in dealing with cases in the UK system.
Amy’s father, Mitch, has set up the “Amy Winehouse Foundation” in her memory. The foundation provides care and support for young people in the UK and abroad, who suffer from illness, disability, financial deprivation and addiction.
In December 2011, her family also released some of the new material she had been working on in the posthumous album “Lioness: Hidden Treasures”, showing the world that Amy Winehouse was one of the rare talents, who even after her death will influence the music world.