Amy Winehouse (September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011)
Amy Jade Winehouse
was born in north London to Jewish parents. Many of Winehouse’s maternal uncles were jazz musicians, her paternal grandmother was a singer who dated jazz legend Ronnie Scott. They, alongside her parents, encouraged young Amy’s interest in jazz. During her teens, she founded a rap group, Sweet’n’Sour, with a childhood friend. At 14, she brought her first guitar and started writing music the next year.
In July 2000 Winehouse became the featured female vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Her best friend, soul singer Tyler James sent her demo tapes to various A&R people. In 2002 she was signed to Simon Fuller’s 19 Management and kept a recording industry secret. Winehouse had recorded numerous songs and had a publishing deal with EMI when Island Records came along a few years later to sign her.
Winehouse’s debut album Frank was released in October 2003. Her single Stronger Than Me won her her first Ivor Novello Award (a prestigious songwriting/composing award). Her second album, Back to Black saw more of a soul look and feel to it. Released in October 2006, it went on to become the UK’s best selling album of 2007. It was this album (with the singles Rehab, Back to Black and Tears Dry on Their Own) that she is best known for and made Winehouse a bona fide superstar and household name. In 2008, Winehouse won Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Rehab. She also won a Grammy for Best New Artist. She picked up another two Ivor Novello awards. Off the strength of Back to Black alone, Winehouse continued performing until her death.
Winehouse had a stormy relationship/marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil. They married in 2007 and divorced in 2009. Fielder-Civil claims he introduced Winehouse to crack cocaine. Battling alcoholism, drug addictions, depression, bulimia and with a propensity to self-harm, Winehouse quit illegal drugs in 2008. Later that year she began seeking treatment for respiratory problems. On July 23, 2011, the world was stunned to hear of Winehouse’s death from acute alcohol poisoning. At the time of her death, her blood alcohol level was 416 mg per 100 ml, more than five times the legal drink-drive limit.
A posthumous album of previously unreleased material, Lioness: Hidden Treasures was released in December 2011. It debuted at the top of the UK Album chart with the biggest first week sales of her career. Winehouse was only 27 at the time of her death.