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Amy Winehouse, Soul Singer and Tragic Legend

Updated on February 22, 2012

Death of a Legend

On July 23, 2011 the world was shocked to hear that a 27 year old woman was found dead, believed to be Amy Winehouse. Plagued by problems of alcohol and drug abuse, she was blessed with a soulful powerful voice that seemed illogical for a tiny, white, undernourished-looking young woman with the enormous, bee-hive hairdo.

Beehive * Silicon * Contralto Vocals


Family Ties and School Days

Amy was born on September 18,1983, the second child to Janis and Mitch Winehouse. Born into a musical family, she was raised in north London suburb. Her father worked as a musician and taxi driver and her mother a pharmacist. Her father often sang Frank Sinatra songs to his daughter, and she also constantly sang, even at inappropriate times like in the classroom. Her teachers found her intelligent, stubborn, and hard to control.

She has an older brother, Alex. Her parents separated when she was nine.

Her ethnic looks are part of her family's mixed heritage. Her mother is Russian - Jewish and often she would refer to her Jewish heritage. Her mothers' brothers are also musicians. Her mother works as a pharmacist, so she had some correlation to drugs at a very early age, she was familiar with them. It is also interesting that her mother's name is Janis, the name of another legendary rock singer who tragically died a drug related death at the premature age of 27.

From an early age, she showed her individuality, head-strong nature, and musical talent.

Her maternal grandmother Cynthia, who Amy idolized, recommended that she enroll in a famous musical academy since obviously music was her strongest suit. At this school, which was the longest successful period of time she attended, she was later kicked out. The headmistress denies this, claiming that her family had moved, and that she would never have expelled Amy. Nevertheless, Amy's school record was spotty at best, spending six months to a year from school to school.

Amy's grandmother is tattooed on her right arm as a tribute to Cynthia, who died of lung cancer five years ago. The family discussed scattering her ashes along with Cynthia's since they were incredibly close.

Tribute to Grandmother Cynthia

Singer for Sweet - n - Sour

She adored the 1950s girl group, the Ronettes, especially its lead singer, Ronnie Spector. Once the now retired singer saw a picture of Amy without her glasses on, and thought it was a photo of herself during her performing days.

At age 12, she and her girlfriend Juliette Ashby created a rap duo called Sweet - n - Sour (she was the sour half). She patterned it after the American rap duo Salt n Pepa (Pepper).

Amy's amazing voice was kept a big secret. She had musical ties, and did a few recordings, but the owner of the voice was kept a secret. Some who had heard her, were especially eager to sign her to a recording contract. Finally, at the young and tender age of 19, Amy signed with Island Records, a moment she had been preparing for all her life.

Sweet Amy performing in NYC

In this photo she looks like a demure photomodel - maybe a little like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
In this photo she looks like a demure photomodel - maybe a little like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Rehab Official Video

Rehab lyrics

Rehab, (short for Rehabilitation, as in Drug Rehabilitation) lyrics (in part)

They tried to make me go to Rehab but I said no no no

Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know know know

I don't have the time,

and if my daddy thinks I'm fine

They tried to make me go to Rehab

but I won't go, go, go

A short lived legend

In 2003, she cut her first album "Frank", which was an enormous hit with critics and the general public, and was later nominated for the Mercury Prize. In 2005 she produced an even more successful release: her follow up album was called "Back to Black". She received six Grammy award nominations - winning five of them - and was the most award-decorated woman of the evening. The five awards included three of the traditional "Big Four": Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year.

In 2007, she won a BRIT award for Best British Female Artist. She had also received a nomination for Best British Album.

She won the Ivor Novello award three times - first in 2004 for the Best Contemporary Song Musically and Lyrically for "Stronger than Me". In 2007 she won again for Best Song for "Rehab", and in 2008 for Best Song "Love is a Losing Game" among other distinctions.

Her second album, Back to Black (its title presumably refers to her struggle with addiction) was the third biggest selling album in the United Kingdom during the 2000s.

Original or Remake - she had what it took

Remakes and Original Hits

Amy redid the ska hit (Specials) called Monkey Man, which became a hit in its own right. She also sang "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", which was originally recorded in the 1950s and has been recorded numerous times since.

Her signature songs which ended up topping the charts were "You Know That I'm No Good", "Love is a Losing Game", "Rehab", and "My Tears will Dry Alone".

Amy began finding peace in a Buddhist chant and started to relax and smile a bit more. Her father commented that she had not been this happy for a long, long time. Her tempestuous marriage to Blake Fielder-Civic had been wrought with drama, fighting, court orders, and divorce. Now she was in a new relationship with film director Reg Traviss who she had probably decided to marry shortly before her death. Reg Traviss later called her publicly his "love".

In the final stages of her life, she did manage to create some peace with the most important person in her life, really - with Amy herself. The chant soothed down her intense energy and gave her clarity and control. The family hoped the best for her when out of nowhere, tragedy struck.

With Blake Fielder-Civil

some say he's responsible for introducing Amy to hard drugs
some say he's responsible for introducing Amy to hard drugs

With Reg Traviss

Amy's parents approved, and considered the film director a calming influence on their daughter
Amy's parents approved, and considered the film director a calming influence on their daughter

Amy with her Dad

Backup Singer Zalon Thompson

Her backup singers, brothers Heshima and Zalon Thompson were among the many mourners at Amy's funeral. Now that their girl is gone, they want to pay a special tribute to their employer and friend.

Heshima Thompson told the BBC, “Amy was just so real, she was so honest and she was so open. You didn’t really have to wonder what she was thinking – you pretty much knew. With most backing singers you stand right at the back and you sing. She had us right at the front, she would come and stand right next to us. She would encourage us to sing solos.”

“She didn’t like the glitz and glam – she hated it. So many people wanted to work with her and she wasn’t about that, she wasn’t about the money, she was pure about music.”

The Amy Winehouse Foundation

Her father, Mitch Winehouse announced at her funeral that an Amy WInehouse foundation was being established. It might possibly include a rehabilitation facility, since the average person in England must wait two years to be admitted into a rehab facility. At any rate, he said it would be a center dedicated to Amy's memory, and would include children and horses, two of the things that Amy was passionate about. She was also a humanitarian, donating the proceed of her song "Back to Black" to the cause "Born HIV Free" and was known for humanitarian action and assistance to the people of St. Lucia, where she vacationed and lived for part of the year.

Her father claims that she kicked drugs and alcohol three weeks earlier. The autopsy clearly established that she was without any illegal chemicals at the time of death. Is it possible that the sheer physical shock of abstinence did her in? At the time of this writing, the cause of her death remains unknown.

The world will be a sadder place without Amy in it to brighten up our lives with her fantastically amazing deep smoky voice. Rest in peace, dear one.


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    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thanks, jellygator. I need to find out if her Foundation is off the ground yet. Too bad she died when she did, it seemed as if her life was starting to get on the right track. Sure miss her talent. Recently heard her version of "Girl from Ipanema" - it is absolutely fabulous. Regards, ECAL

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      I never knew she was involved in humanitarian efforts. Good to hear that her dad is starting a rehab that will involve horses and children.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      A lot of people compare Amy to Whitney Houston, another great talent that might have died of substance abuse. (No alcohol was found in Amy's body, and the press was told that Whitney died of prescription drugs). Both were young and amazing talents. With all this publicity, it would be great if tighter controls were placed on drugs to help cut down on widespread usage and abuse, especially in the music industry.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      I know she had a drug problem, but many musicians fall into that dark world. There are performances at night, sleeping in the day, and a lifestyle of standing on your head. I think she was a huge talent - too bad that it killed her!

    • stunnercold profile image

      stunnercold 6 years ago from Dubai

      For all intends and purposes, she sort of did this to herself.