Back to black


Her songs move like a free spirit through different eras of popular music, stretching, back to jazz and reaching into rap.
Her singing is immediately recognisable, needling, cajoling, emphatic, greedy, tender, sorrowful — a voice that demands attention and lavishly rewards it. An exceptional talent whose wild and too brief career was cut short by a sudden death
early life
Future star early years

Amy Jade Winehouse was born on Sep, 14, 1983 in Gordon Hill, Enfield, to Jewish parents. Her great-great-grandfather Harris Winehouse emigrated from Minsk, Belarus, to London in 1891. Amy’s father, Mitchell "Mitch" Winehouse, was a window panel installer and taxi driver. Her mother, Janis Winehouse (nee Seaton) was a pharmacist. She had an elder brother, Alex.

amy winhouse child

The family lived in London's Southgate area where she attended Osidge Primary School and then secondary at Ashmole School. Winehouse attended a Jewish Sunday school while she was a child. During an interview following her rise to fame, she expressed her dismissal towards the school by saying that she used to beg her father to permit her not to go.

jewish school
parents’ divorce

Every week I’d say, ‘I don’t want to go, dad, please don’t make me go.’ ... I never learnt anything about being Jewish when I went anyway.

Amy's parents separated when she was nine. She lived with her mother in Whetstone, London and stayed with her father and his girlfriend in Essex on weekends. Mitch Winehouse struck up a relationship with his colleague Jane shortly after his daughter was born. "The children used to call Jane 'Daddy's work wife.' I did not leave home until Amy was ten, so the situation occurred for another eight or nine years before I left home. It was difficult," Mitch told the Daily Mail in 2008. After Mitch moved in with Jane, he divorced Janis and tied the knot with his mistress, and somehow, he didn't anticipate his actions to impact his children in any way.

Speaking on a BBC show (via the Daily Mail), Mitch explained: ‘I thought Amy was over it pretty quickly — in fact it felt at the time Amy felt no effect at all. Maybe she could not articulate it in words, but she certainly did it with music.’ It wasn't until he heard her song ‘What Is It About Men’ that he realised how Amy had felt.

When I was a little kid it was my dream to go to drama school, but it was never something I thought would happen to me. I was a Jewish girl from North London and things like that
don’t happen to Jewish girls from North London called Amy Winehouse

In 1992, her grandmother Cynthia suggested that Amy attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School, where she went on Saturdays to further her vocal education and to learn to tap dance. She attended the school for four years and founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet 'n' Sour, with Juliette Ashby, her childhood friend, before seeking full-time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School.

After toying around with her brother Alex's guitar Amy bought her own guitar and began writing music afterwards. Soon after she began working for a living, as an entertainment journalist for the World Entertainment News Network and also singing with group the Bolsha Band.

why jazz

In July 2000, she became the featured female vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. She was influenced by Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, the latter of whom she was already listening to at home. Winehouse's best friend, soul singer Tyler James, sent her demo tape to an A&R person.

Many of Amy's maternal uncles were professional jazz musicians. Amy's paternal grandmother, Cynthia, had been a singer and had dated the English jazz saxophonist Ronnie Scott. She and Amy's parents influenced Amy's interest in jazz.

Her father, Mitch, often sang Frank Sinatra songs to her, and whenever she was chastised at school, she would sing "Fly Me to the Moon" before going up to the headmistress to be told off.

Early ages Amy’s first lyrics, songs and drugs
when her career started

Her future A&R representative at Island, Darcus Beese, heard of her by chance when the manager of the Lewinson Brothers showed him some productions of his clients, which featured Winehouse as key vocalist. When he asked who the singer was, the manager told him he was not allowed to say.

Beese introduced Amy to his boss, Island head Nick Gatfield, who shared his enthusiasm in signing the young artist. Amy was signed to Island while rival interest in her had started to build with representatives of EMI and Virgin starting to make moves. Beese told HitQuarters that he felt the excitement over an artist who was an atypical pop star for the time was due to a backlash against reality TV music shows, whose audiences starved for fresh, genuine young talent.

1st steps

Amys 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, Amy co-wrote every song. The album received critical acclaim with compliments given to the ‘cool, critical gaze’ in its lyrics. Amy's voice was compared with those of Sarah Vaughan and Macy Gray.

After the release of her first jazz-influenced album, Amy's focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Amy hired New York singer Sharon Jones's longtime band, the Dap-Kings, to back her up in the studio and on tour. In May 2006, Winehouse's demo tracks such as "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" appeared on Mark Ronson's New York radio show on East Village Radio.

Amy performing live. July 2004

These were some of the first new songs played on the radio after the release of ‘Pumps’ and both were slated to appear on her second album. The 11-track album, completed in five months, was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Ronson, with the production credits being split between them.

debut album
How fascinating watching her process was: her perfectionism in the studio and how she would put what she had sung on a CD and play
it in his taxi outside to know how most people would hear her music

After the release of her first jazz-influenced album, Amy's focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Amy hired New York singer Sharon Jones's longtime band, the Dap-Kings, to back her up in the studio and on tour. In May 2006, Amy's demo tracks such as "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" appeared on Mark Ronson's New York radio show on East Village Radio.

These were some of the 1st new songs played on the radio after the release of ‘Pumps’ and both were appear on her second album. The 11-track album, completed in 5 months, was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Ronson, with the production credits being split between them.

‘Back to black’

Promotion of Back to Black soon began and, in early October 2006 Winehouse's official website was relaunched with a new layout and clips of previously unreleased songs. Back to Black was released in the UK on 30 October 2006. It went to number one on the UK Albums Chart for two weeks in January 2007, dropping then climbing back for several weeks in February. In the US, it entered at number seven on the Billboard 200. It was the best-selling album in the UK of 2007, selling 1.85 million copies over the course of the year.

The first single released from the album was the Ronson-produced "Rehab". The song reached the top ten in the UK and the US. Time magazine named "Rehab" the Best Song of 2007. The album's second single and lead single in the US, "You Know I'm No Good," was released in January 2007 with a remix featuring rap vocals by Ghostface Killah.

US and Japanese alternative cover
UK Albums Chart

US Billboard 200

30 oct. 2006
Date of release

1.85 million
Copies selling in 1 year
Watch Amy's live performance at Glastonbury, 2007
It's impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson
that references 4 decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you've got the best 2007 song
It's impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson that
references 4 decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you've got the best 2007 song.

Amy promoted the release of Back to Black with headline performances in late 2006, including a Little Noise Sessions charity concert at the Union Chapel in Islington, London.

The rest of her tour, however, did not go as well. In November 2007, the opening night of a 17-date tour was marred by booing and walkouts at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. A critic for the Birmingham Mail said it was "one of the saddest nights of my life...I saw a supremely talented artist reduced to tears, stumbling around the stage and, unforgivably, swearing at the audience."


Other concerts ended similarly, with, for example, fans at her Hammersmith Apollo performance in London saying that she "looked highly intoxicated throughout," until she announced on 27 November 2007, that her performances and public appearances were cancelled for the remainder of the year, citing her doctor's advice to take a complete rest.

A statement issued by concert promoter Live Nation blamed "the rigours involved in touring and the intense emotional strain that Amy has been under in recent weeks" for the decision. Mitch Winehouse wrote about her nervousness before public performances in his 2012 book, Amy, My Daughter.

November 2006 – December 2007 tour summary

On 31 December 2006, Amy appeared on Jools Holland's Annual Hootenanny and performed a cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" along with Paul Weller and Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. She also performed Toots and the Maytals' "Monkey Man".

At his request, actor Bruce Willis introduced Winehouse before her performance of "Rehab" at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards in Universal City, California, on 3 June.

4 conserts /Canada
22 conserts /USA
50 conserts /UK
26 conserts /Europe
received by Amy

Amy's debut album earned several awards and recognitions, including an Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song ("Stronger Than Me"), a BRIT Award nomination for Best Female Solo Artist, and an inclusion in Robert Dimery's 2006 book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Back to Black produced numerous nominations, including two from the BRIT Awards (Best Female Solo Artist and Best British Album), six from the Grammy Awards, four from the Ivor Novello Awards, four from the MTV Europe Music Awards, three from the MTV Video Music Awards, one from the Southbank Awards (Best British Female Artist), three from the World Music Awards, and one each from the Mercury Prize (Album of the Year) and MOBO Awards (Best UK Female).

Ivor Novello Awards
"Stronger Than Me"
Best Contemporary Song Musically & Lyrically
BRIT Awards
British Female Solo Artist
Elle Style Awards /by Elle magazine
Amy Winehouse
Best British Music Act
GAFFA Awards /Denmark
Best Foreign Female Act
Ivor Novello Awards
Best Contemporary Song
MOBO Awards /Music of Black Origin
Amy Winehouse
Best UK Female
MOJO Awards /by Mojo magazine
Song of the Year
MTV Europe Music Awards
Amy Winehouse
Artist's Choice
Popjustice £20 Music Prize
Best British Pop Single of the Year
Q Awards
"Back to Black"
Best Album
Vodafone Live Music Awards
Amy Winehouse
Best Female
Grammy Awards
Amy Winehouse
Best New Artist
Grammy Awards
"Back to Black"
Best Pop Vocal Album
Grammy Awards
Record of the Year
Grammy Awards
Song of the Year
Grammy Awards
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Ivor Novello Awards
"Love Is a Losing Game"
Best Song Musically and Lyrically
Meteor Music Awards /Ireland
Amy Winehouse
Best International Female
Urban Music Awards
Amy Winehouse
Best Neo-Soul Act
World Music Awards /worldwide sales
Amy Winehouse
Best Selling Pop/Rock Fem
Echo Music Awards /Germany
"Back to Black"
Album of the Year
Echo Music Awards /Germany
Amy Winehouse
Best International Female Artist – Rock/Pop
2012 /posthumously
Echo Music Awards /Germany
Amy Winehouse
ECHO Hall of Fame
2012 /posthumously
Grammy Awards
"Body and Soul"
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Her Style
recognisable beehive hairdo

Since making a splash with her debut album, Frank, in 2003, Amy never strayed from being authentically herself. She had a consistent love for both retro sounds and style. For performance outfits, she frequently borrowed from the 1950s (although she added her own grunge to them).

Rockabilly style emerged in the South during the decade, when rock music began taking over the airwaves; Women began wearing shapely halter dresses — often in polkadot prints — and high-waisted pencil skirts, also tying their beehive hairdos up with a bandana. It’s a look that Amy began really adapting when she released her 2nd album, Back to Black, in 2006 — an influential record that would skyrocket her to global stardom, thanks to her hits such as ‘Rehab,’ ‘Back to Black,’ and ‘You Know I’m No Good.

The Voice Village

Amy's greatest love was 1960s girl groups. Her hairdresser, Alex Foden, borrowed her "instantly recognisable" beehive hairdo (a weave) and she borrowed her Cleopatra makeup from the Ronettes. Her imitation was so successful, as The Village Voice reports:

‘Ronnie Spector — who, it could be argued, all but invented Winehouse's style in the first place when she took the stage at the Brooklyn Fox Theater with her fellow Ronettes more than 40 years ago — was so taken aback at a picture of Winehouse in the New York Post that she exclaimed, ‘I don't know her, I never met her, and when I saw that pic, I thought, 'That's me!' But then I found out, no, it's Amy! I didn't have on my glasses.’

The New York Times style reporter, Guy Trebay, discussed the multiplicity of influences on Amy's style after her death. Trebay noted, ‘her stylish husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, may have influenced her look.’

Amy was influenced by soul girl groups such as the Ronettes. She imitated their look
She was a 5-foot-3 almanac of visual reference, most famously to Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes,
but also to the white British soul singer Mari Wilson, less famous for her sound than her beehive
recognisable beehive hairdorecognisable beehive recognize hairdorecognisable beehive

Former Rolling Stone editor Joe Levy, who had put her on the magazine's cover, said:

‘Just as her best music drew on sampling – assembling sonic licks and stylistic fragments borrowed from Motown, Stax, punk and early hip-hop – her personal style was also a knowing collage. There was a certain moment in the '90s when, if you were headed downtown and turned left, every girl looked like Bettie Page. But they did not do what Winehouse did, mixing Bettie Page with Brigitte Bardot and adding that little bit of Ronnie Spector.’

Joe Levi:

Amy's use of bold red lipstick, thick eyebrows and heavy eyeliner came from Latinas she saw in Miami, on her trip there to work with Salaam Remi on Back to Black. Her look was repeatedly denigrated by the British press.

With conversations continuing to buzz around what the performance (and fashion) will look like in the upcoming Winehouse biopic, one can only hope that they can properly capture the star’s beautiful, one-of-a-kind spirit. Her distinctive personal style has only continued to influence fashion designers and even in 2022, her rock and roll fashion attitude clearly still lives on and is not any less thrilling to behold. She was in a league entirely of her own.

success vs. personal turmoil

Amy's dichotomous public image of critical and commercial success versus personal turmoil prompted significant media comment. The New Statesman called Amy ‘a filthy-mouthed, down-to-earth diva", while Newsweek called her "a perfect storm of sex kitten, raw talent and poor impulse control’. Karen Heller with The Philadelphia Inquirer summarised the maelstrom this way:

‘She's only 24 with six Grammy nominations, crashing headfirst into success and despair, with a codependent husband in jail, exhibitionist parents with questionable judgement, and the paparazzi documenting her emotional and physical distress.

Meanwhile, a haute designer Karl Lagerfeld appropriates her dishevelled style and eating issues to market to the elite while proclaiming her the new Bardot.

By 2008, her drug problems threatened her career. As Nick Gatfield, the president of Island Records, toyed with the idea of releasing Winehouse "to deal with her problems", he said, ‘It's a reflection of her status that when you flick through the TV coverage [of the Grammys] it's her image they use.’

Post-Grammys, some questioned whether Amy should have been honoured with the awards given her recent personal and drug problems

Amy’s battles with substance abuse were the subject of much media attention. In 2005, she went through a period of drinking, heavy drug use, and weight loss. People who saw her during the end of that year and early 2006 reported a rebound that coincided with the writing of Back to Black. Her family believes that the mid-2006 death of her grandmother, who was a stabilising influence, set her off into addiction.

In August 2007, Amy cancelled a number of shows in the UK and Europe, citing exhaustion and ill health. She was hospitalised during this period for what was reported as an overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol. In the interviews, she admitted to having problems with self-harm, depression, eating disorders.

substance abuse
I really thought that it was over for me then... I literally woke up one day and was like, ‘I don't want to do this any more.’

According to her physician, Amy quit using illegal substances in 2008. In an October 2010 interview, speaking of her decision to quit drugs, Winehouse said, "I literally woke up one day and was like, 'I don't want to do this any more.'"

However, alcohol emerged as a problem, with Amy abstaining for a few weeks and then lapsing into alcohol abuse. Her physician said that Amy was treated with Librium for alcohol withdrawal and anxiety and underwent psychological and psychiatric evaluations in 2010, but refused psychological therapy.

27 club
new to the infamous club

Amy died on July 23, 2011. She was found unresponsive in the bedroom of her home in Camden, London. Her official cause of death was "alcohol toxicity." Before her death, Amy had long struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, though she eventually got clean of heroin and crack. Amy's father said that, in the time leading up to her death, she was the "happiest she has been for years" and had even recently gone three weeks alcohol-free.

Amy's death immediately became front-page news. Fans gathered to create a shrine to the singer outside of her London home and held candlelight vigils. The scene was ‘like a film premiere.’ Amy's father Mitch appeared outside of the Camden home to thank fans who had created the tribute to his daughter. ‘I can’t tell you what this means to us. It really is making this a lot easier for us,’ he said in a speech. ‘Amy was about one thing, and that was love. Her whole life was devoted to her family and her friends, and to you guys as well.’

The day before Any's death, she spent time with her mother. Janis recalled their final conversation during a 2014 appearance on the British TV show, Lorraine. In the 2015 documentary Amy, the late singer's bodyguard Andrew Morris also detailed his last visit with Amy. The two were watching videos of her performances when Amy commented on her vocals, telling Morris that she ‘would give it back just to walk down the street with no hassle.’

27 Club street mural depicting several well-known members of the club. Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Tel Aviv. By John Kiss
Thank God I said, on that day, ‘I love you, Amy.’ And she said to me, ‘I love you, Mummy.’

Her death at age 27 prompted media comparisons to other musician deaths at the same age, collectively named the 27 Club. It is an informal list consisting mostly of popular musicians, artists, actors, and other celebrities who died at age 27.

Although the claim of a "statistical spike" for the death of musicians at that age has been refuted by scientific research, it remains a cultural phenomenon, with many celebrities who die at 27 noted for their high-risk lifestyles.

27 club

Beginning with the deaths of several 27-year-old popular musicians between 1969 and 1971 (such as Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison), dying at the age of 27 came to be, and remains, a perennial subject of popular culture.

This cultural phenomenon, which came to be known as the "27 Club," attributes special significance to popular musicians, artists, actors, and other celebrities who died at age 27, often as a result of drug and alcohol abuse or violent means such as homicide, suicide, or transportation-related accidents.

Jim Morrison /1943–1971
lead singer of the rock band the Doors and among the first people associated with the 27 Club
Janis Joplin /1943–1970
one of the most successful and widely known rock performers of her era
Kurt Cobain /1967–1994
co-founder, lead vocalist, guitarist, songwriter of the rock band Nirvana
Brian Jones /1942–1969
founder, rhythm/lead guitarist, original leader of the Rolling Stones
Jimi Hendrix /1942-1970
one of the greatest and most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music
Amy Winehouse /1983–2011
Amy Winehouse
After death
tributes & artworks

On 14 September 2014 (which would have been Amy's 31st birthday), a statue was unveiled of her, which was created by sculptor Scott Eaton, at Stables Market in Camden Town, north London.

Fans and relatives gathered for the unveiling in Camden's Stable Market, where it will be a permanent memorial to her. London-based Eaton, who sculpted the piece after being introduced to Amy's father Mitch, said the statue was meant to capture her "attitude and strength, but also give subtle hints of insecurity."

Her father Mitch said of the statue: ‘Now Amy will oversee the comings and goings of her home town forever... Amy was in love with Camden and it is the place her fans from all over the world associate her with.’