“I don’t think I knew what depression was. I knew I felt funny sometimes and I was different. I think it’s a musician thing. That’s why I write music. You know, I’m not like some messed up person. There is a lot of people that suffer depression that don’t have an outlet, you know what I mean? That can’t pick up a guitar for an hour and feel better.” – Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse followed a long list of artists who made headlines for her musical achievements and her problems with alcohol and drugs. Eventually, she succumbed to the addiction issues that had plagued her for years, and the world was robbed of a great talent and Britain of one of it’s greatest singers. Winehouse was able to sell like a pop star while offering music that differed greatly from the typical pop offerings of her time—not just because of her one-of-a-kind, powerful voice, but also because of the heart and soul that she managed to put behind every word. Read on to discover 42 facts about this beloved songstress who, like so many, was taken from us too soon.
Winehouse was born to Jewish parents. Her London roots can be traced back to her great-grandfather emigrating from Belarus in the 1800s. A 2014 museum exhibit played tribute to her roots. Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait opened at Tel Aviv’s Beit Hatfusot after an earlier stint at the Jewish Museum London. The original exhibit began thanks to Amy’s older brother, Alex, who offered the museum some of Amy’s clothes. The idea spread from there to include a family tree and personal collections such as furniture and family photos.
41. Copy Me
You might remember the buzz surrounding the Tupac hologram that appeared on stage with Dr. Dre at Coachella. Well, the The X Factor UK execs thought that an Amy Winehouse hologram would be a cool thing to have as well. The plan was for the hologram to do a duet with the contestants in 2012. There were also plans for holograms of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, though none of these ideas actually came to fruition. And as one of the many people whose skin crawls at the idea of bringing dead celebrities images back to life for entertainment, I can’t say I’m sad about that one.
40. In the Family
Winehouse’s dad, Mitch, was also a musician. He worked as a cab driver but had recorded his own jazz album shortly before his daughter’s death. Mitch obviously wasn’t as popular as his daughter, but he was scheduled to do a show in New York the weekend after Amy passed away. Understandably, he canceled the show and promptly returned to the UK to grieve and to settle his daughter’s affairs.
39. You’re Welcome
In 2011, Adele’s album 21 became the highest-charting US debut by a British singer. Five years earlier, Winehouse held that same title thanks to Back in Black. Although Adele might be the British name on everyone’s lips now, Winehouse’s style and success paved the way for others like her to follow in her footsteps.
38. Golden Ticket
Winehouse’s drug problems constantly posed a threat to her career, not just due to bad publicity or canceled shows, but because they could have ended her life even if alcohol hadn’t. According to her father, medical tests showed that Amy had 70% lung capacity in 2008. Smoking cigarettes and crack cocaine had damaged her lungs and her heartbeat, giving her an irregular rhythm. As Winehouse grew older, there is a very good chance that she would have needed an oxygen mask to breathe properly.
37. Sweet and Salty
Winehouse’s style was hard to pin down—it had been characterized from neo-soul to R&B and everything in between—but she actually started off as a rapper. When they were just ten years old, Winehouse and Juliette Ashby formed a duo called Sweet ‘n’ Sour. In Winehouse’s own words they were the “little, white, Jewish Salt-N-Pepa.” The duo never released an album but they did record three songs, “Glam Chicks,” “Spinderella” and “Boys…Who Needs Them.”
36. Make Her Own Way
By 15, Winehouse dropped out of school and began pursuing music full-time. Her brother taught her how to play guitar and Amy began writing her own music. Winehouse would play her songs at local jazz clubs, until a friend was able to give her studio time to record demos, resulting in a deal with Island UK in 2002.
35. Creative Influence
Some artists might say their stylistic changes come from the music they listen to or the people around them. In the case of Winehouse, it’s kind of related to the latter. Specifically, her transition from smoking marijuana to drinking booze. The early jazz sound of her first album came from Mary Jane, while the later R&B stylings came from drinking.
34. Purify Yourself
As a singer, you must think you’ve made it when Prince says he’s a fan. Once, Prince expressed his desire to have Winehouse perform at one of his shows, and in September 2007 she performed her song “Love is a Losing Game” with the iconic singer at a London aftershow.
33. Better Luck Next Time
Although Winehouse’s first album, Frank, was critically-adored and went Platinum in England, it was never released in the US. US exposure would come with her second album, Back to Black, and smash hit songs like “Rehab.”
Winehouse’s death at the age of 27 makes her a member of the infamous 27 Club, a long line of iconic actors and musicians who died at the same age. Other members include Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
The Hawley Arms pub became renowned in the 2000s due to some of its clientele, which included Liam Gallagher of Oasis and supermodel Kate Moss. Amy Winehouse also gets some of the credit since she was known for getting behind the bar to serve other customer’s drinks. The manager, Craig Seymour, recalls seeing men cry after being served a pint by the songstress.
30. Mother Bear
Back in 2009, Winehouse started her own record label called Lioness Records. Her goddaughter, Dionne Brumfield, was her first client. Winehouse also taught Brumfield how to play guitar and paid for her to take singing lessons in Europe.
29. High Note
Winehouse took the idea of moving forward to another level, stating that she aimed to “never remember anything bad in her life.” A key part of this philosophy manifested itself in how she wrote her songs. The songs are often emotional and cathartic in nature, but Winehouse said they usually contain a “punchline” of sorts, ending on a happy note so that the happy memories are the last thing she remembers.
28. Love Hurts
In 2005, Winehouse began dating Blake Fielder-Civil. Two years later, the two got married. One year after their marriage, Fielder-Civil was sentenced to 27 months in jail for assault and attempted battery due to his involvement in a bar fight. Fielder-Civil admits he was the one that introduced Winehouse to heroin, but ironically, her drug addiction became worse once he went to prison.
If you’ve seen the video for “Rehab,” it’s hard to miss the band that accompanies Winehouse throughout. The Dap-Kings were the band that she selected to play the instrumentals on “Rehab” and other hits like “Back To Black.” Saxophonist Neil Sugarman remembers Winehouse as a polite and gracious collaborator, but also recalls a visibly high Winehouse once being unable to sing a sing a song that the Dap-Kings had made for her.
26. Ima Let You Finish
Kanye West isn’t known for his humility or his ability to see talent that doesn’t involve himself, but Winehouse was able to elicit some measure of respect and humility from him back in 2008. At the Grammy Awards, Kanye took the stage to accept the Best Rap Album Award. While on stage he told Winehouse’s producer that she deserved to win Best Album as much as he did. However, in pure Kanye fashion, Kanye added “I deserve it too.” Yes, Kanye, that was implied.
25. Beam Me Up
Winehouse was scheduled to perform at the 2008 Grammy Awards, but her drug problems nearly cost her the opportunity. Winehouse entered rehab shortly before the award ceremony and her visa application was rejected the day before the ceremony. The decision was reversed Friday, but since Winehouse had to travel all the way across the pond, it was a little too late. As a workaround, Winehouse performed at 4:00 am London time (five hours ahead in London), in a small studio complete with an audience, and her set was broadcast to the American audience.
Winehouse’s best-selling song came about while she was walking around London with producer Mark Ronson, perhaps best known for his work on Bruno Mars’ song “Uptown Funk.” Ronson recalls Winehouse singing the hook for “Rehab,” along with the popular “no, no, no” part. It was only Ronson’s insistence she should actually record the tune that led to its creation. Later, Winehouse did admit the song was about her former management company, who, we might add, reaped none of the rewards of the single’s success.
23. No, No, No
Winehouse became the first female British singer to win five Grammys after she cleaned up at the 2008 Grammys. Her Grammys included Record of the Year for “Rehab,” ironic since Winehouse was an out-patient with a rehab clinic at the time.
22. Dressing Room
One of Winehouse’s many tattoos was one on her left arm that read “Daddy’s Girl,” and it must have really meant something: Mitch Winehouse is probably one of the few dads who has bought lingerie for his daughter, at his daughter’s insistence. Winehouse specifically ordered him to go to Agent Provocateur on her behalf while she was in the hospital. I wonder how he answered when an employee asked him “Need help with anything?”
When Winehouse was at her best, her live shows were something to behold. However, she had stated that she was never a natural performer and that stage fright was something she dealt with prior to every live appearance, perhaps explaining her many controversial performances.
20. Under the Influence
Winehouse credits her father’s taste in music with introducing her to older singers and helping to craft her unique style. In particular, Winehouse credits Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra as the people who taught her how to sing. In Winehouse’s last interview, in 2011, she actually got to record a duet of the jazz classic “Body and Soul” with Tony Bennett, remarking that it was a “story to tell my grandchildren.” Bennett was the last person to record with Amy Winehouse before her death.
Winehouse attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School from the ages of 13-15. The school requires an application form for successful entry, and Sylvia Young shared part of Amy’s application with the public after her death. In her letter, Winehouse wrote that she wanted people to hear her voice and “forget their troubles for five minutes.” She already had dreams of sold-out concerts and shows and wasn’t afraid to let Sylvia Young know.
Some sites will tell you that Winehouse was expelled from the Sylvia Young school at 14, but, Young herself insists that this was not the case. Allegedly, the school’s academic head told Winehouse that she would fail her exams because she got distracted too easily, and Winehouse’s mother then decided to take Amy out of the school. Young was unaware of the decision until Winehouse already left, and also added that the academic head was gone shortly after. Young valued Winehouse as an intelligent and self-aware student.
Prior to getting a record deal, Winehouse performed with the Bolsha Band, a local outfit that helped to give her more exposure. It wasn’t a rap group like Sweet ‘n’ Sour, but it was something. Videos of a younger Amy performing with the band are still available online.
Winehouse’s favorite song was Carole King’s “So Far Away” and her funeral service ended with her loved ones singing it.
15. Ooh la la
Over a year after Winehouse’s death, Libertine’s frontman Pete Doherty announced that he and Winehouse had a secret affair that started in 2010. However, since Winehouse isn’t around to confirm and Doherty could have just been looking for some publicity, take this one with a grain of salt.
14. Back Home
In September 2014, an Amy Winehouse statue was unveiled in Camden in London. The unveiling of the statue coincided with what would have been Winehouse’s 31st birthday, September 14. Mitch Winehouse was instrumental in getting the statue approved and was also involved in the design process, while sculptor Scott Eaton brought it to life. The bronze statue sports Winehouse’s distinctive beehive hairstyle and even captures the piercing on her upper lip.
13. Family Girl
Due to all the headlines concerning Winehouse’s drug and alcohol issues, some people may have had a hard time envisioning her as a mother. However, Winehouse definitely saw little ones in her future, “at least five.” She imagined herself working from her home studio, working in the basement, surrounded by her children.
12. That’s One Way To Put It
Winehouse didn’t think of herself as a performer, and she also didn’t think of herself as a fashion icon. What is more interesting is the way Winehouse described her style: “I just dress like I’m an old Jewish black man.” Well said, Winehouse.
11. Never Mess With The Original
Winehouse’s fans include Jay-Z, so much so that the rapper produced a cover of “Back to Black” in 2013 for the film version of The Great Gatsby, featuring vocals from Andre 3000 and Beyoncé. The cover got a pretty mixed reception from Mitch Winehouse, who said that Andre 3000 should have just let Beyonce sing his part. Mitch says his approval was never sought for the cover and he didn’t have a rave review for Beyoncé either, saying she brought nothing special to the song. Everyone’s a critic, I guess.
Some sites have reported that Lady Gaga will play Amy Winehouse in an upcoming biopic and that Mitch Winehouse signed off on the casting. However, Mitch has never given approval and is not interested in the project. To Mitch, Amy’s music is a key part of her life and the estate will never allow her songs to be released for that purpose.
9. Mr. J
Winehouse and Nas were both born on September 14, separated by ten years (1983 and 1973 respectively). One of Winehouse’s last released recordings was her work on Nas’s “Cherry Wine.” According to producer Salaam Remi, who introduced the two, they quickly became good friends. Rumors circulated that Winehouse had a crush on Nas, which probably had some merit since Winehouse had already written a song about him: “Me and Mr. Jones” (Nas’s real name is Nasir Jones).
Amy’s first album, Frank, got its name from one of her earliest influences, Frank Sinatra. This seems sweet until you realize she later grew some mixed feelings about the album. Some sites say Winehouse disliked the album because she felt like it was rushed and hadn’t been properly finished before its release, quoting her as saying “I want to take it back from everyone’s houses and keep working on it for five more years until it’s perfect.” Well, I still think it’s pretty good as it is.
There seem to be two types of people—those who like playing games in a relationship, and those who hate it with a terrible passion, and Winehouse was in the latter group. She never had the patience for men who play games since she tended to lose interest quickly. Being a straightforward, stylish man with a creative mind was allegedly the way to get into a relationship with Winehouse (not quite that simple, but you get the idea).
“Back to Black” is responsible for making Winehouse the highest debuting British female artist in US history, with the song debuting at #7 on Billboard Charts.
5. From the Grave
Amy Winehouse has sold over four million albums, and nearly half of the total came after her death in 2011. Her debut album Frank re-entered the charts after she passed away, peaking at #3 one month after her death. At one point, the posthumous surge actually made Frank highest selling album of the 21st century, but then Adele’s 21 came along to take the throne. Man, Adele just stealing Amy’s thunder every chance she gets!
Winehouse was found in her Camden home in 2011 and the coroner initially ruled it a “verdict of misadventure;” basically a death accidentally resulting from legal activity. The original coroner was found to be lacking the relevant experience (five years as a registered lawyer) but a second coroner confirmed the verdict in 2013. In simple terms, Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning, with her blood containing more than five times the legal limit.
3. Better Days
Sometimes we have to watch our heroes crumble in front of us, and on June 18, 2011, a crowd of 20,000 witnessed a visibly drunk Winehouse struggle through a set at Kalemegdan Park in Belgrade, Serbia. The set was meant to be the first on a 12 stop tour across Europe. Winehouse messed up some of her lyrics and sometimes stopped singing altogether. When the crowd began booing, Winehouse threw her shoe at them. The performance went viral two days later and the rest of the tour was canceled. This was Winehouse’s last concert performance prior to her death.
2. Posthumous Beef
A 2015 documentary, Amy, claims to tell the story of Winehouse’s life, but her family had some issues with how they were portrayed. Mitch, in particular, believes he was portrayed as more of a stereotypical stage dad: the man treating his daughter like a meal ticket and ignoring her needs. He recalls one example where he is shown saying his daughter doesn’t need rehab. Mitch says that he said she didn’t need rehab “at the time” since this was the early stage of Amy’s issues, back in 2005. Amy edits out the “at the time” portion.
1. A Way Out
Biographer Chloe Govan’s Amy Winehouse: The Untold Story made some headlines when it alleged that Winehouse tried to kill herself when she was ten. According to an old friend, Winehouse was emotionally devastated by her parent’s divorce and this led her to overdose on pills. The friend says she found Winehouse clutching her stomach, with her mouth foaming. Old acquaintances talking about suicide attempts seems to be a trend, since Winehouse’s ex also claimed she cut herself eight weeks prior to her death. According to Fielder-Civil, Winehouse had called him up on their wedding anniversary day, but his new wife was in labor at the time so he filled Winehouse in on the situation and hung up. When Fielder-Civil called back the next day, she allegedly said that she had cut herself really badly. However, with all of the stories that swirled through the tabloids following Winehouse’s death, it can be hard to really separate truth from fiction.
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