Amy Jade Winehouse was born on September 14, 1983 in Southgate, London, England. She came from a long lineage of musicians. Her paternal grandmother, Cynthia was a singer, who dated English jazz legend Ronnie Scott. Amy’s father, Mitch used to sing Frank Sinatra songs to her when she was young. Her biggest influences were Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, who she listened to frequently at home.
She started playing around with her brothers guitar and eventually got her first guitar at the age of fourteen. A gift from her brother Alex. She began singing and songwriting day and night. She became the lead vocalist at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Her sound was unique. She began to be compared to R&B and soul legends. It was not manufactured Pop music. Her music was from the heart. From the soul. One of Amy’s biggest loves was 60’s girl groups. She developed her look, including the beehive hairdo and Cleopatra makeup, from the group the Ronette’s.
She started to be recognized by producers and record companies from all over. She began to work with producer Mark Ronson It was at this time when she met the love of her life, Blake Fielder-Civil. Many people say her relationship with Blake would be her downfall. When they met, he had a girlfriend. This really upset and hurt Amy. Amy and Blake started to use a lot of drugs and alcohol. In his absence, Amy started to drink heavily, slipping more and more into her depression. In several interviews, Amy admitted to self-harm, depression and eating disorders. Her eating disorder, bulemia, really began to consume her. She was losing weight at a rapid rate. The on and off again relationship with Blake exhausted her. Physically, emotionally so and spiritually. The 2007 song, “Back to Black” captures Amy’s depression regarding her relationship to Blake. Amy’s life seemed to be completely spiraling out of control. There were legal issues. Amy assaulted a fan. Blake was arrested and to three years in prison. They were married and divorced. Amy was in a deep depression. She was hospitalized for what was reported as an overdose of Heroin, Ecstasy, Cocaine, Ketamine and Alcohol. Her addiction to alcohol was out of control. Amy was diagnosed with Emphysema, from her constant chain smoking of cigarettes and crack cocaine. Her self harming, cutting herself became a way for her to relieve her pain. She had said that she was lost in this world.
Amy’s last recording was with her idol, icon Tony Bennett. During the recording of “Duet”, Bennett said that she was one of the truest jazz singers that he had ever heard. He said that she should be treated like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday. He said that she had the complete gift. The year after Amy’s death, the song won the Grammy for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance.
When Amy Winehouse came on to the scene, her ultra sultry voice and trailblazing talents meant that she was destined to be famous. She changed music as we knew it, with her innovative voice and songwriting. In her early days, she was high octane and infectious. Now, her legions of fans worldwide were watching their hero die, right in front of their eyes.
Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home on July 23, 2011. She was just 27. The official cause of death was alcohol poisoning. She had a blood alcohol level more than 4 to 5 times the legal limit. The effects of her eating disorder and the alcohol made her heart stop.
Following her death, Tony Bennett said, ” If she had lived, I would have said slow down. You’re too important. Life teaches you really how to live it, if you could live long enough.”
People say, “Why would a five time Grammy winner, who has such fame and fortune, throw it all away?” Addicts and Alcoholics are often brought to this type of desperation from pain. Pain that they search for relief for. A relief that they seem to never be able to find. A lot of addicts feel that they are alone. That they are unique. That nobody knows their pain. They feel that there is no hope. The help is out there. The hope is out there. A new way of life is possible, if they can just get the help that they so desperately need.