Troubled British singer Amy Winehouse has been found dead of an apparent overdose in her London apartment today. The 27-year-old star known best for her hit "Rehab" and her literal struggles to stay out of it was pronounced dead at the scene, though police say the circumstances of her death are still "unexplained." Sadly, Winehouse has become the newest member of the 27 Club, the list of brilliant rock stars who have perished at the same age, which includes Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.
"We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer," Winehouse's Universal Republic label heads Monte and Avery Lipman said in a statement. "Our prayers go out to Amy's family, friends and fans at this difficult time."
Though it seemed like Winehouse primarily made headlines for her outrageous behavior and battles with addiction, it was her boozy, bluesy growl that endeared her to millions of fans worldwide. She grew up a rebellious theater student in London and stumbled into music as a teen. One of her demo tapes found its way to an A&R rep, and her jazzy debut Frank arrived in 2003. The LP was nominated for Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize, but Winehouse didn't become a household name in the States until its follow-up, Back to Black, was released in 2006. The Mark Ronson- and Salaam Remi-produced disc was filled with throwback soul recalling the shoop shoop of girl groups paired with Winehouse's grimly charming tales of heartbreak and hazy nights.
The Winehouse of the Back to Black era was a saucy, tattooed early twentysomething with a greasy beehive precariously balanced atop her strikingly tiny frame. She winked at the idea of being forced into rehab in song, but her increasingly erratic performances hinted that there was a real darkness demonizing her inner world. Despite her troubles, the album was a huge hit -- it was the best-selling LP of 2007, and earned five trophies at the 2008 Grammys, including Record of the Year and Best New Artist. Winehouse was unable to attend the ceremony due to visa difficulties, but performed two stunning songs via satellite. While accepting one of her many awards, she thanked "My Blake incarcerated" -- her on again, off again boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil, who was well known from his exploits with Winehouse in the British tabloids.
As Winehouse's troubles grew -- she was accused of hiding drugs in her beehive and abandoned numerous live appearances after becoming too intoxicated to perform -- hope that she would produce a follow-up to her acclaimed second album waned. A 2007 tour was cut short and doctors ordered the singer to take a break. She spent part of 2009 in St. Lucia, where she gave another disastrous performance at a jazz festival. But she did make tentative steps toward recording again in the past year, contributing a cover of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party" to Quincy Jones' 2010 disc Q Soul Bossa Nostra; she was reportedly scheduled to duet with Tony Bennett on his upcoming Duets II album, as well.
Earlier this year she returned to the stage in South America, and made a brief, one-week stop in a rehab facility to prepare herself for a short European tour that launched in June. The trek was halted after only a handful of dates, however, after a Serbian paper dubbed her show "the worst in the history of Belgrade." On June 19th, her father -- a cab driver turned jazz singer known for gabbing to the press incessantly about his daughter -- told the New York Times while promoting his own album, "She's very, very supportive and she's a great kid and she's going through some rough stuff at the moment, but the last few weeks she's been absolutely fantastic."
In truth, however, Amy was anything but fantastic. On June 21st, the singer's reps released a statement reading, "Amy Winehouse is withdrawing from all scheduled performances. Everyone involved wishes to do everything they can to help her return to her best and she will be given as long as it takes for this to happen."
Here's footage of Winehouse's last-ever public appearance -- she danced (but didn't sing) alongside her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield at the iTunes festival earlier this week:
Winehouse's exclusive Yahoo! session from 2007:
"You Know I'm No Good"
[Photo: Samir Hussein/Getty Images]
- Amy Winehouse