Amy Winehouse, Lady Who Sang The Blues, Dead At 27


NEW YORK TIMES: With a husky, tart voice and a style that drew equally from the sounds of Motown and the stark storytelling of rap, Ms. Winehouse became one of the most acclaimed young singers of the past decade, selling millions of albums, winning five Grammy Awards and starting a British retro-R&B trend that continues today. Yet, almost from the moment she arrived on the international pop scene in early 2007, Ms. Winehouse appeared to flirt with self-destruction. She sang of an alcohol-soaked demimonde in songs like “Rehab” — whose refrain, “They tried to make me go to rehab/I said, ‘No, no, no,’ ” crystallized Ms. Winehouse’s persona — and before long it seemed to spill over into her personal life and fuel lurid headlines. The interplay between Ms. Winehouse’s life and art made her one of the most fascinating figures in pop music since Kurt Cobain, whose demise in 1994 — also at age 27 — was preceded by drug abuse and a frustration with fame as something that could never be escaped. Yet in time, the notoriety from Ms. Winehouse’s various drug arrests, public meltdowns and ruined concerts overshadowed her talent as a musician, and her career never recovered. MORE

ROLLING STONE: Those who have only heard her voice express shock upon seeing the body that produces it: The sultry, crackly, world-weary howl that sounds like the ghost of Sarah Vaughn comes from a pint-size Jewish girl from North London, world-weary though she may be. In Toronto, she is attired in the nearest thing she’s got to a uniform: Rizzo from the neck up, Kenickie from the neck down. She’s wearing her ubiquitous ratty beehive atop a thick mane of dark waves, oversize candy-cane plastic earrings and her black eyeliner drawn into exaggerated Cleopatra swooshes. Her exceptionally thin frame fails to fill out her pencil-straight black jeans, but she wears her black wifebeater nice and snug, and her arms display an assortment of old-school pinup-girl tattoos, some with their tits hanging out, others — like the one with “Cynthia” inked next to it — in coquettish Fifties garb. Winehouse has also become notorious for allegedly drunken public appearances, including one time in January when she ran offstage during a performance to barf. At an awards show in the U.K. last fall, she heckled Bono during his acceptance speech with “Shut up! I don’t give a fuck!” And on the popular British game show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, she was visibly inebriated enough that host Simon Amstell joked, “This isn’t even a pop quiz show, it’s an intervention.” Then there are her album’s frequent references to booze, weed and blow — most notably “Rehab,” which narrates how her former management company, run by American Idol and Spice Girls mastermind Simon Fuller, tried to make her go to rehab, but, oh, you know what happened next. MORE

THE INDEPENDENT: Mark Ronson, the producer responsible for bringing out so many of the great moments on Back to Black, told me this when I interviewed him: “I introduced Amy to my mum, having just told mum that Amy’s album had gone platinum that same day. So my mum later introduced Amy to somebody else and said, ‘This is Amy, her album went platinum!” I was like SHUT UP! If you tell everyone in front of Amy she’ll basically shrivel up and go into a shell and not come out. She doesn’t want to be lavished. She doesn’t want people gushing over her. She just can’t get anything out of it – even on the day her own album goes platinum.” Ronson also spoke about how they made a lot of the album together: “She wrote all those songs, apart from ‘Back to Black’, which we wrote together. Each day she’d come in and play me a song on her acoustic guitar, show me what the chords were, and leave. I would work through the night, strip the chords down, see what could be arranged. She’d start with a shuffly ’40s blues standard and I’d try and make it into an old-school ’60s thing. But ‘Rehab’ wasn’t a song initially, it was just a conversation. She was telling me quite a sad, personal story about when she got really fucked up and her dad wanted her to get help, but she was trying not to make the story too heavy when she told me, so she said, ‘Oh, they tried to make me go to rehab but I was like [adopts comedy booming voice] no, no, no.’ It was so funny, the way she said it. I was like, that could really be a song you know.” MORE

PHAWKER: It is incredibly crass, callous and clueless of the Washington Post to post this video of Amy Winehouse getting booed off the stage in Belgrade and it will show to future generations that the Washington Post was still — even at this late date — on the wrong side of history when it came to understanding the nature of addiction. We all know she was a walking tranwreck in the final years of her life, is it really necessary to remind readers on the occasion of her death? She was a very sick person who needed help, not derision. Would they run photos of AIDS or cancer patients in their final days along with their death notices? Of course not. Fuck you, Washington Post.

RUSSELL BRAND: ”When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone. […] I’ve known Amy Winehouse for years. When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool Indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma. Carl Barrat told me that “Winehouse” (which I usually called her and got a kick out of cos it’s kind of funny to call a girl by her surname) was a jazz singer, which struck me as a bizarrely anomalous in that crowd….I chatted to her anyway though, she was after all, a girl, and she was sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable. […] Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease….All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill. We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense.” MORE


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