This week has been tough for the family, friends and fans of
British soul singer Amy Winehouse, who was memorialized Tuesday after being
found dead in her North London home last
Saturday. So much of the media coverage focused on her death, autopsy
results, last album "Back To Black," and her decline, which included a
long bout with drugs and alcohol.
But clearly, there is much more to Winehouse than the
tabloid headlines. Before Winehouse became known for her tumultuous relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil and beehive hairdo, she was born on September 14, 1983 and raised in the Southgate section of North London.
Winehouse is the daughter of Mitchell, a taxi driver, and Janis, a pharmacist,
and the sister of Alex, who is four years older.
Winehouse's father sang Frank Sinatra songs to her, and she, too,
embraced singing. At the urging of her grandmother, she began attending the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School at the age of 9. She stayed there until she won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School, which has
groomed a number of budding entertainers, including Emma Bunton and Leona
A 12-year-old Winehouse wrote in her entry essay that it was
her dream to become famous. "It's a lifelong ambition," she said.
"I want people to hear my voice and just forget their troubles for five
Her stay at Sylvia
School was short-lived,
reportedly due to bad grades, and she attended several other local high
Winehouse took an early interest in her brother's guitar and
received one when she was 13. She began writing songs the following year. She
sang with a local band, Bolsha Band, and found a job as a journalist for the
World Entertainment News Network.
In 2002, she signed with Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment, and
later received a publishing deal with EMI and a recording contract with
In October 2003, the 20-year-old Winehouse released her solo
debut, "Frank," which drew critical praise and a BRIT Awards nomination
as well as inclusion on the shortlist for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize for her
songwriting and the album's mixture of jazz, hip-hop and soul.
"Frank"'s songs of anguish, pain, and heartache
backed by heavy jazz influences did not capture the
attention of the mainstream audiences. In a pre-Beehive interview posted on YouTube, Winehouse
said she could not explain why she had not sold more records at the time.
"That's such a good question," she said. "How come I haven't
sold more ... Tell me please. I'd like to know."
Album sales would not be an issue for her sophomore album, "Back
To Black." Winehouse switched her sound from jazz to girl groups of the '50s
and '60s, hired Sharon Jones's backing band, the Dap-Kings, for live dates and studio
sessions, and reteamed with "Frank" producer Salaam Remi and Mark
Ronson. "Back To Black" won five of six Grammy nominations and was
the best-selling album in the U.K.
While Winehouse finally received the overdue attention of the masses, it was bittersweet. It was due in large part to her exceptional
music, but her formula for writing pain-stricken songs like "Rehab"
and "You Know I'm No Good" fueled tabloid coverage about her personal
problems with drugs and then boyfriend Fielder-Civil.
Since the release of Winehouse's last album, 2006's
"Back To Black," the "Rehab" singer's fans have eagerly
anticipated its follow-up, and her untimely death has intensified the
It is unclear how many previously unreleased songs exist. There
has been talk about a Winehouse record that will be featured on next year's James Bond film. In 2008, Lucian Grainge, chairman of Winehouse's label
Universal Music Group, described then new Winehouse recordings as
"sensational" when speaking at the Music Industry Trust Awards. And
last year, Winehouse said her album would come out in January 2011.
This week, Winehouse producer Salaam Remi posted "Roun'
Midnite," a previously unreleased track on his Tumblr page. A hip-hop
fused interpolation of Miles Davis's instrumental "Round Midnight,"
Winehouse sings about experiencing calmness and sadness in the late night hour. "'Cause
round midnight, I'm so easy," "everything is fine round
midnight," she sings.
The most concrete plan for an official new Winehouse release
is her inclusion on Tony Bennett's "Duets II" album due out in
September. Winehouse recorded with the music legend "Body And Soul." In
a videotaped interview with the U.K.'s
The Guardian, Bennett said that of his "Duets II" recording sessions
with the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, and Lady Gaga
he most enjoyed his work with the troubled singer.
"Everyone said, 'I don't know how you're going to
handle her.' I felt completely different," Bennett told The Guardian. "What turned
the key, I said to Amy, 'You sound a little like one of the great jazz singers
Dinah Washington. The minute she heard that, her eyes popped wide open. She
said, 'You know that I like Dinah Washington?'
... That was a main instrument at the moment and from that moment on, the record
came out just beautiful."
Before Winehouse's death, Bennett expressed his genuine excitement about working with
her. So the "Body And Soul" collab must
be good. We can't wait to hear it.
Veteran rocker Meat Loaf also made the news this week.
During a concert in Pittsburgh
Thursday, he literally passed out on stage. Medics came to his aid and after he
was revived, he actually completed the remainder of his set, reportedly
attributing the scare to asthma. We hope he is OK. Considering this level of
dedication, we are sure Donald Trump must regret not naming a workhorse like
Meat Loaf "Celebrity Apprentice."
Sean Kingston is another unstoppable performer. After taking
some time off to recover after being involved in a life-threatening jet skiing
accident in May, the "Beautiful Girl" singer returned to the stage in
Friday night. He joined Nicki Minaj during her set on Britney Spear's Femme
Fatale tour to deliver their spicy duet "Dutty Love." Nicki Minaj,
however, was met with a minor stumbling block this week. She pleaded guilty to a obscenity
charge in Jamaica for
spewing expletives during her Reggae Sumfest set in Montego
And another failed attempt to organize a Michael Jackson
tribute concert was derailed this week. The Jackson
estate said it was never in support of the concert, which was scheduled to take place in Cardiff, Wales
in October, and Jackson's brothers, Jermaine and
Randy, withdrew their support because the October date conflicts with the trial
physician Conrad Murray.
This latest Jackson
news leaves our heads spinning. Maybe Jackson
fans should just take to karaoke bars and organize their own Jackson tributes and call it a day. It should
not be this tough.
For details on the above stories, be sure to check out the
links below. We'll be back next weekend for another roundup of music news. See
THIS WEEK'S TOP 5
MUSIC NEWS STORIES
2) Unstoppable -- Meat Loaf collapses on stage, but resumes
3) Back On The Block -- Sean Kingston makes first post-jet
ski accident performance.
4) Black Friday -- Nicki Minaj is fined for lewd performance
5) Beat It -- Michael Jackson estate says no to tribute
concert in Wales.
Photo credit: Amy Winehouse 2004 Sony Radio Academy Awards - Ferdaus
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