It’s a sad day for music fans. In Amy Winehouse, our generation heard a unique and remarkably soulful voice incomparable to anyone else in the game but her death today – aged only 27 – dashed all hopes for a long, legendary career.
It was 2am Melbourne time and I was wide awake, giving my body time to digest an indulgent midnight snack of curly fries, when I read a tweet saying “RIP Amy Winehouse”. We’ve seen hoax celebrity RIP garbage floating about on Twitter many a times before and at that moment no news outlets had confirmed the Back to Black singer’s passing, so I just shrugged it off.
I woke up seven hours later to a text informing me that Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment and that it’s all over the news. I jumped up right away and after trawling my various social networking timelines, it became clear that half the reaction was of shock and the other, disrespectfully callous in ways of calling her untimely death “as predicted”. It will take an autopsy to properly determine what the “unexplained” cause of Amy’s death was but everyone is suspecting the obvious: drug overdose.
The tabloid’s focus on Winehouse’s battle with drugs and alcohol almost polarised any attention paid to her music. Despite the fact that she wasn’t making any proper progress, I felt like almost everyone was rooting for Amy to get it together and return to making music. The world saw her rough journey come to a shocking low last month when a video of Amy barely coherent at a concert in Serbia went viral. That was not the look and that is definitely not how the Camden singer should be remembered.
Having said that, like many of us, I felt like her troubled personal life complemented her art – much to her detriment at the end. With Amy, it always felt authentic – through the mess, the incoherence and career highlights. You read so much about her in the press but unlike so many tabloid-mongering celebrities, Amy had genuine talent to back it up, drawing you to a place of deeper appreciation after you make a connection with her music, lyrics and soulful tone.
Nobody could’ve done her iconic song ‘Rehab’ to the full potential that she did, both vocally and in spirit. Her major breakthrough Back to Black is a true testament to that deeper connection I spoke about, selling her millions around the world and earning her five Grammys. Back to Black is without question one of the most important albums in British pop history.
Amy first caught our attention when she dropped her critically-acclaimed jazz debut Frank in 2003, featuring personal faves like ‘Fuck Me Pumps’ and ‘What Is It About Men?’ but nothing resonated stronger with her spirit than when she turned to the hearty 60s soul sound for the Back to Black era. In terms of influence on pop culture and the music industry, Back to Black‘s success paved the way for British soul sirens like Adele, Duffy, Eliza Doolittle and many more.
Amy Winehouse really had the potential to reach music legend status like the handful of idols who also passed away at age 27: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Robert Johnson. It’s a great shame to see her journey cut short.
Check out some of her brilliant live performances:
‘Valerie’ (Live Acoustic):
‘Rehab (Live on David Letterman):
‘You Know I’m No Good’ (Live Acoustic for Yahoo!):
‘Back to Black’ (Live at BBC Sessions)
Check out some artist tributes that have been flowing on Twitter after learning of Amy’s death:
Mark Ronson, close friend and producer who hemmed her iconic Back to Black album:
“She was my musical soulmate & like a sister to me. this is one of the saddest days of my life”
“I cant even breath right now, im crying so hard i just lost 1 of my best friends. i love you forever Amy & will never forget the real you! [sic]”
“What a waste of a gifted person. What a shame she saw no hope and continued living her life in that manor. I have been that low emotionally and mentally and that is overwhelming. I keep asking myself why some of us are spared and the others are made examples. I’m very angry and sad. I don’t know why it’s bothering me so much. Sometimes I think this job will be the death of us all, or at least the emotional death of us all.”
Mary J Blige:
“Rest in peace Amy Wine House. I hope the after life brings u the piece u were searching 4 on earth. Love MJB [sic]”
Post-humous record sales surge:
It didn’t take long for iTunes to slap Amy’s face on the home page and it sure didn’t take long for her back catalogue to start climbing up the digital charts.
Here in Australia, Back to Black is currently #2 on iTunes while her special two-album package Frank & Back to Black sits at #4, Back to Black (Deluxe Edition) is at #9, and Frank (Deluxe Edition) currently charts at #15. Similar story over in the States, Amy currently has three albums in the iTunes Top 10. It’s bound to go #1 world over in no time.
I expect for her label to put out a post-humous record like they did with so many artists, ie – Aaliyah and Michael Jackson. However, I’m not entirely confident that Amy had recorded many tracks for her third album. It’ll probably be the case of a best-of package where they’ll plough through lesser-known material from her Frank era and maybe mix it up with some decent live recordings.
If anything, we know there’s definitely at least one new recording in the bag. Tony Bennett managed to grab a duet with Amy on a track titled ‘Body and Soul’ for his upcoming duets album so we can expect that to be released in September sometime.