Winehouse, Amy


Winehouse, Amy
▪ 2009

born Sept. 14, 1983, London, Eng.

 “No, no, no,” British singer Amy Winehouse's sultry refusal to enter drug and alcohol treatment in her song “Rehab,” elicited big yeses in 2008 from consumers, critics, and notables in the music industry, who made her album Back to Black a massive hit, lavishly praised its retro soul, and honoured it with five Grammy Awards, including two (best song and best recording) for “Rehab.” Winehouse's rise to fame, however, was accompanied by a very public slide into personal chaos. That slide—marked by dramatic anorexic weight loss, drunken performances, an arrest in Norway for marijuana possession, and the incarceration of her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, after a bar fight—culminated in January in the posting on the Internet by the Sun newspaper of a video in which Winehouse appeared to be smoking crack cocaine. In May she finally said “yes” to rehab.

      Born to a Jewish family, Winehouse was raised primarily by her mother, a pharmacist, who divorced her father, a taxicab driver, when Winehouse was nine. Early on she demonstrated an interest in the arts, but she was expelled from Sylvia Young theatre school for wearing a forbidden nose ring. At the prestigious BRIT School, Winehouse showed ability as an actor as well as a singer, and by age 16 she was performing with jazz groups. On her critically acclaimed debut album, Frank (2003), she proved herself to be a shrewd, caustic lyricist, and her smoky, evocative vocals drew comparisons to jazz and rhythm-and-blues legends Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Billie Holiday.

      A series of tumultuous romances followed for Winehouse, none more fevered than her on-again, off-again relationship with Fielder-Civil, about whom many of the heartbreak songs on her next album, Back to Black (2006), were written. A very different-looking Winehouse began appearing in the tabloids as the new album took off in Britain and broke through in the U.S. (largely because of the infectious “Rehab”), entering the American charts at number seven, the highest debut position ever for a British woman. The now stick-thin, tattooed Winehouse began piling her jet-black hair in an enormous beehive that, along with heavy Cleopatra-style eye makeup, became her trademark look. Her singing on Back to Black, more in the vein of Motown and 1960s and '70s soul, delighted critics. After marrying Fielder-Civil in May 2007, Winehouse began behaving increasingly erratically and canceling shows. When, in the wake of the Sun video, Winehouse was unable to obtain a visa to appear at the Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, a special satellite performance was arranged in London. In November she was named Best Selling Pop/Rock Female at the World Music Awards. Her volatile marriage, however, appeared to be on the rocks..

Jeff Wallenfeldt

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Universalium. 2010.

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