Amongst the funeral dates, autopsy announcements, rehab jokes, and cause of death theories, we decided to do something a little different regarding British soul singer and grammy winner, Amy Winehouse: Talk about her LIFE. Here is a brief, but accurate (and more importantly, positive) feature on the life of Amy Winehouse:
Winehouse was born in the Southgate area of north London. Her family was very influential toward her interest in jazz. Mitchell Winehouse, a taxi driver, and Janis Winehouse, a pharmacist had an older son, Alex. Mitchell often sang Frank Sinatra songs to young Amy, who also took to a constant habit of singing to the point that teachers found it difficult keeping her quiet in class.
When Winehouse was nine years old, her grandmother suggested she attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School for further training. At age ten, Winehouse founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet ‘n’ Sour with childhood friend Juliette Ashby. She stayed at the Earnshaw school for four years before seeking full time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School, but was allegedly expelled at 14 for “not applying herself” and for piercing her nose. She later attended the BRIT School in Selhurst, Croydon and attended Southgate School and Ashmole School.
After playing her brother, Alex’s guitar, Winehouse received her own first guitar when she was 13. She began writing music a year later. In addition to working as a music journalist at the World Entertainment News Network Winehouse began singing with local group the Bolsha Band. Winehouse then signed to Simon Fuller’s 19 Management in 2002 after her boyfriend sent in her mix tape to an A & R representative at the firm (19 Management is also the management group that manages the American Idol stable of artists). While Winehouse was being developed as an artist, she was kept a secret from the rest of her label. But, her talent could not be hidden for long as many executives at Island Records overheard her incredible singing and wanted to know who she was.
Nick Gatfield, the head of Island Records at the time, was introduced to Winehouse and immediately signed her. Winehouse was signed to Island/Universal as rival interest in Winehouse had started to build, with representatives at EMI and Virgin looking to sign her, as well.
Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, was released on 20 October 2003. Produced mainly by Salaam Remi, many songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, every song was co-written by Winehouse. The album received positive reviews with compliments over the “cool, critical gaze” in its lyrics and brought comparisons of her voice to Sarah Vaughan and Macy Gray. What a compliment!
The album made waves on the UK album chart in 2004 when it was nominated for BRIT Awards in the categories of “British Female Solo Artist” and “British Urban Act”. It went on to achieve platinum sales! Later in 2004, Winehouse won the Ivor Novello (songwriting) Award for Best Contemporary Song, alongside Salaam Remi, with her contribution to the first single, “Stronger Than Me”. The album also made the short list for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. In the same year, she performed at the Glastonbury Festival, the V Festival, the Montreal International Jazz Festival (7 July 2004, at the Club Soda), and on the Jazzworld stage.
Winehouse’s 2006 follow-up album, Back to Black, led to six Grammy Award nominations and five wins, tying the then record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made Winehouse the first British female to win five Grammys, including three of the “Big Four”: Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. On 14 February 2007, she won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist; she had also been nominated for Best British Album. She won the Ivor Novello Award three times, one in 2004 for Best Contemporary Song (musically and lyrically) for “Stronger Than Me”, one in 2007 for Best Contemporary Song for “Rehab”, and one in 2008 for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for “Love Is a Losing Game”, among other distinctions. The album was the third biggest seller of the 2000s in the United Kingdom.
Winehouse was credited as an influence in the rise in popularity of female musicians and soul music, and also for revitalising British music. At the 2008 Ivor Novello Awards, Winehouse became the first artist to receive two nominations for the top award, best song, musically and lyrically. During her career, Winehouse received 23 awards from 58 nominations.
In a poll of United States residents conducted for VisitBritain by Harris Interactive that was released in March 2009, one fifth of those polled indicated they had listened to Winehouse’s music during the previous year! In February 2010, rapper Jay-Z credited Winehouse with revitalising British music, saying, “There’s a strong push coming out of London right now, which is great. It’s been coming ever since I guess Amy (Winehouse). I mean always, but I think Amy, this resurgence was ushered in by Amy.”
Winehouse began her own Record Label, Lioness Records, in 2009. She also collaborated on a 17 piece fashion collection with the Fred Perry label. It was released for sale in October 2010.
Amy Winehouse died, prematurely (at age 27), on Saturday July 23rd, 2011.