“There’s nothing you can teach me, that I can’t learn from Mr Hathaway.”
An inspired and hugely inspirational music fan – from Donny Hathaway to Billie Holiday, James Moody to The Specials – Amy Winehouse was a uniquely gifted vocalist whose distinctively soulful style and mascara-heavy tattooed Ronettes-esque appearance set her aside from her contemporaries.
From her rootsy jazz-tinged debut album ‘Frank’ from 2003 to the multi-Grammy winning follow up ‘Back To Black’ in 2006, she told her own story of broken relationships, a search for simplicity and her struggles with life on a series of songs that were at times just too painfully honest.
She had an “exceptionally-susceptible-to-heartbreak voice,” opined Caroline Sullivan in The Guardian, while Bob Dylan recognised her as “the last real individualist around.”
Briefly part of the BRITS school, she started writing songs aged 14 and was signed to Island Records for her much-nominated debut album but it was her follow up ‘Back To Black’, recorded with Sharon Jones’ backing band The Dap Kings and producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, and the album’s first single ‘Rehab’ that propelled her to global attention and a life under the lens.
Filled with epic soul-searching songs, ‘Back To Black’ was home to a string of singles that cemented her reputation as a performer and brought comparisons with Sarah Vaughan, Etta James and many more diva legends, while Paste magazine recognised the album’s “synthetic Motown-style backdrop” and Spin magazine spotted a likeness to Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound.
Lyrically incredibly personal, Amy’s songs became anthems for a generation, while her real life dramas began to spill across the tabloids and her insecurity increased. Tragically she died of alcohol poisoning in July 2011, following a period of abstinence. The effect of her death was far-reaching, her succinct lyrics having touched the hearts of millions across the globe, her heart-on-sleeve emotions all too real.