Amy Winehouse has died, aged just 27 years old. Although there is already much speculation over the cause of death, and sadly some finger wagging on Twitter about her demons, it would be a shame if such sensationalism was to overshadow her career. For, although she left us only two albums, they were two very special albums. Frank was released in 2003, when a 19 year old female singer was more likely to be squeezed into a tight-fitting catsuit rather than producing a downbeat jazz album in the vein of Sarah Vaughan.
Frank was startling, not just for Amy’s voice, but the candid nature of her lyrics – something that would continue throughout her life. Lead single Stronger Than Me attacked a unnamed sensitive new man, while the incredible What Is It About Men was a startling portrait of her father’s infidelity.
Three years later, she took a massive step forward with Back To Black. In producer Mark Ronson, she’d found the perfect foil – note perfect recreations of Motown and Philly soul, with that incredible voice reaching new heights. Her relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil provided her with a huge amount of lyrical content – You Know I’m No Good, Love Is A Losing Game, Tears Dry On Their Own and the classic title track all detail the disintegration of her relationship in unflinching detail.
And then, of course, there was the dark side – songs that are almost impossible to listen to in the aftermath of her death, such as Rehab and Addicted. It was after the release of Back To Black that the live performances became more erratic, the tabloid headlines became more lurid, and eventually the idea of a third album became more and more unlikely.
Sadly, that shambling performance in Belgrade will be remembered as her final live gig – but when on form, she could sing like nobody else quite on earth. For proof, just watch this incredible rendition of Love Is A Losing Game at the Mercury Prize in 2007.
Despite all her troubles, Amy could be hilarious and was always immensely quotable – have a read of the interview she gave to musicOMH in 2003 for an example. It’s that force of personality, that wit and of course, that enormous talent that we here at musicOMH.com hope she’ll be remembered for. RIP Amy – you will be missed.
Sara McDonnell, who wrote the aforementioned interview with Amy, adds:
I interviewed Amy when she was very much in the ascent of her career; her first album Frank, had just come out and she was already being nominated for Ivor Novellos and Brit Awards. She was intelligent, friendly and disarmingly honest, which made her a joy to interview.
The thing that struck me most about her, however, was the maturity of her outlook on life. Even back then, barely out of her teens and with an enormous talent, her ultimate ambition (aside from making great albums), was ‘to have kids as well. Then go to Vegas, open a casino and perform there every night!’ That line has stayed with me ever since, and for me, makes her untimely death particularly poignant.