Amy Jade Winehouse by Susan Calter

When I first saw Amy Winehouse on a magazine cover…what did I see? First her bazar hair style and clothes not to forget her make-up application and tattooed body. I guess when you are not into her off-beat look, you really don’t want to hear what the singer sounds like. We have all been there using this negativity in various applications. Why are we so quick to judge? Hearing the news of her death in the summer of 2011…was anyone surprised? amy_winehouse01
Keith Richards, of the Rolling Stones warned her years earlier that “she won’t be around long if her behavior doesn’t change.” Amy was then added to the ominous list of famous performers who died at the glorious age of 27…Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and more recently, actor Jonathan Brandis who died on November 12, 2002.

I am not a big Tony Bennett fan even though I met him once when I was in high school. Walking home from school with my boyfriend at the time, we stopped at his house. Who was sitting in his living room but Mr. Bennett? It turned out that my boy friend’s mother had dated him years before and they had remained friends.
When his Duets II CD was released on September 20, 2011 my sister sent it to me. I listened to it immediately. Bennett sings17 tunes with some great vocalists of our time. When I got to the third track I heard Amy and Tony singing “Body and Soul.” To be honest with you I didn’t even hear his voice…I was mesmerized by hers. The first thing that went through my mind was how much she reminded me of three of the greatest female singer of all time, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, yet her voice was not dated. She accomplished something that is difficult to do and somehow at that moment I understood her. It was almost as if she was channeling the singers from that celebrated musical era to add another facet to their previous performances.
Amy Jade was born in the London borough of Southgate and most probably heard the music that molded her sound when she was still sleeping her crib. Several of her relatives were professional jazz musicians. It was this connection that gave her a love of music and the unique sound that she hand-crafted by her own design. Early on Amy enjoyed listening to the group Salt-n-Pepa, James Taylor and TLC. Her big break came in 2008 to be the first British female to win five Grammy Awards on the same night, February 10th. The awards included, Best New Artist and Record of the Year for ‘Rehab’. Her Grammy performance was broadcast from London via satellite, because she was unable to appear in person in Los Angeles due to temporary problems with her traveling visa.
At 12, Winehouse was accepted into the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School, and a year later she received her first guitar. But by the age of 16, Winehouse was expelled for “not applying herself” and piercing her nose. That same year, she caught her first big break when a schoolmate and close friend, pop singer Tyler James, passed her demo tape to his label, A&R,who was searching for a jazz vocalist. The opportunity led her to a record deal with Island/Universal.
Her debut album, Frank (2003), was a critically acclaimed mixture of jazz, pop, soul, and hip-hop. The album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize as well as two BRIT awards for Best Female Solo Artist and Best Urban Act. The debut single on the album, “Stronger Than Me,” earned the new artist an Ivor Novello award. Frank also hit double platinum status. Her family shared her love of theater and music. Amy was brought up on jazz music; she played her brother’s guitar and received her own guitar at age 13. Young Amy Winehouse was a rebellious girl. At age 14, she was expelled from Sylvia Young Theatre School in Marylebone, London. At that time she pierced her nose and tattooed her body. She briefly attended the BRIT School in Croydon, and began her professional career at 16, performing occasional club gigs and recording low cost demos. At age 19, she recorded her debut, Frank (2003), a jazz-tinged album that became a hit and earned her several award nominations. During the next several years, she survived a period of personal upheaval, a painful relationship, and has been struggling with substance abuse. Her 2006’s album ‘Back on Black’ was an international hit, and ‘Rehab’ made No. 9 on the US pop charts.
Following her success at the Grammy Awards, Winehouse gave a string of highly successful performances during the year 2008. In June, she was suddenly hospitalized with a serious lung condition. However, she left hospital for one evening to perform for Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday celebration in London’s Hyde Park. She sang her hits Rehab and Valerie, drawing cheers and applause form the crowds and a smile from Mandela. Winehouse also performed for Roman Abramovich’s party in Moscow; there she earned $2 million for her one-hour gig.
In April 2008 she was named the second greatest “ultimate heroine” by the British population at large, and a month later was voted the second most hated personality in the UK. George Michael called her the “best female vocalist he has heard in his entire career,” while Keith Richards warned that she “won’t be around long” if her behavior doesn’t change.
Musically, Amy Winehouse created a cross-cultural and cross-genre style. She experimented with an eclectic mix of jazz, soul, pop, reggae, world beat and R&B. She had a special ability to channel hurt and despair into her performances. Her voice, phrasing and delivery sometimes sounded like a mix between Billy Holliday, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, and coupled with similarities in personal problems, she at times resembled another incarnation of legendary “Lady Blues”.
Her big break came in 2008. Amy Winehouse became the first British female to win five Grammy Awards on the same night, February 10th, 2008, including Best New Artist and Record of the Year for ‘Rehab’. Her Grammy performance was broadcast from London via satellite, because she was unable to appear in person in Los Angeles due to temporary problems with her traveling visa. Following her success at the Grammy Awards, Winehouse gave a string of highly successful performances during the year 2008. In June, she was suddenly hospitalized with a serious lung condition. However, she left hospital for one evening to perform for Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday celebration in London’s Hyde Park. She sang her hits Rehab and Valerie, drawing cheers and applause form the crowds and a smile from Mandela. Winehouse also performed for Roman Abramovich’s party in Moscow; there she earned $2 million for her one-hour gig.
Amy Winehouse developed a distinctive style of her own. Her signature beehive hairstyle has become the model for fashion designers, while her vulnerability, her fragile personality and self-destructive behavior has been regular tabloid news, and subject of criticism and controversy. Musically, Amy Winehouse created a cross-cultural and cross-genre style. She experimented with an eclectic mix of jazz, soul, pop, reggae, world beat and R&B. She had a special ability to channel hurt and despair into her performances. Her voice, phrasing and delivery sometimes sounded like a mix between Billy Holliday, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, and coupled with similarities in personal problems, she at times resembled another incarnation of legendary “Lady Blues”.
Known for her craft as singer and songwriter and for her powerful deep contralto vocals, singing her best forte in R&B, jazz and soul music. Since 2007, she was a regular item on tabloids until her recent death due to weird behaviors contributed to her drug and alcohol addiction. On July 23, 2011 Winehouse and former husband had legal battles and Blake Fielder Civil was sentenced and imprisoned. Winehouse was found dead on July 23, 2011 in her home in London at the age of 27. OD mix with alcohol was said to be the cause of death. She was cremated at the Golden Green Crematorium.

 

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