Amy Winehouse

January 26, 2007

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Amy Winehouse
Background information
Birth name Amy Jade Winehouse[1]
Born September 14, 1983 (age 23)
Origin England Enfield, Middlesex, England
Genre(s) Soul, R&B, Vocal jazz
Label(s) Island/Universal (2003 – present)
Website AmyWinehouse.co.uk

Amy Jade Winehouse (born September 14, 1983) is an English jazz/soul singer and songwriter. Her debut album, Frank (released in 2003) was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and she won an Ivor Novello award in 2004 for her debut single “Stronger Than Me”. In 2006, after appearing in the British press for multiple alcohol-related incidents, she released her second album, Back to Black.

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[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Winehouse was born into a family with a history of jazz musicians.[2] She grew up in the suburb of Southgate, North London, and attended Ashmole School. At around age 10, Winehouse founded a short-lived amateur rap group called Sweet ‘n’ Sour, as Sour. She described the group as “the little white Jewish Salt ‘n’ Pepa“.[3] She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School aged 12 but was expelled at 13 for “not applying herself”.[4][3] She later attended the BRIT School in Selhurst, Croydon.

She grew up listening to a diverse range of music (from Salt ‘n’ Pepa to Sarah Vaughan) and received her first guitar aged 13.[5]

After her friend, soul singer Tyler James, gave her demo tape to an A&R person, she was discovered and began singing professionally at age 16.[2] She signed to her current record label, Island/Universal, under management company 19 Management.[3]

[edit] 2003 – 2004: Frank

Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, was released on October 20, 2003. It was produced mainly by Salaam Remi with many songs having jazz-influences and, apart from two covers, every song was co-written by Winehouse. The album received positive reviews[6][7] with compliments over the “cool, critical gaze” in its (sometimes explicit) lyrics[8] and brought comparisons of her voice to, amongst others, Sarah Vaughan[9] and Macy Gray.[8]

The album entered the upper levels of the UK album chart in 2004 when it was nominated for Brit Awards in the categories of “British Female Solo Artist” and “British Urban Act”. It went on to sell platinum.[10] Later in 2004, she won the Ivor Novello songwriting Award for “Best Contemporary Song” with her contribution to the first single, “Stronger Than Me” (alongside Salaam Remi).[11] The album also made the short list for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. In the same year, she performed at the Glastonbury festival, on the Jazzworld stage, and at the V Festival.

After the release of the album, Winehouse commented that she was “only 80 per cent behind [the] album” because of the inclusion of certain songs and mixes she disliked by her record label.[2] Upon the release of her second album, she stated “I can’t even listen to Frank any more — in fact, I’ve never been able to. I like playing the tracks live because that’s different but listening to them is another story.”[12]

[edit] 2006: Back To Black

In early 2006, demonstration tracks such as “Wake Up Alone” and “Rehab” appeared on Mark Ronson‘s New York radio show on East Village Radio. These were some of the first new songs played on the radio since the release of “Pumps” and were both to appear on her second album.

[edit] Album release

Back to Black, Winehouse’s second album, was released on October 30, 2006, a little more than three years since the release of Frank. In an interview, Winehouse explained “After Frank I didn’t write for 18 months but when I met Mark I pretty much wrote the album in six months — he was so inspiring.”[12] In contrast to her jazz-influenced former album, Winehouse’s focus is described as “shifting to the girl groups of the Fifties and Sixties”.[13] The eleven-track album was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, with the production credits being split between them almost equally.

Rehab single cover

Rehab single cover

The first single released from the album on October 23, 2006 was the Ronson-produced “Rehab“, a song about her past refusal to attend an alcohol rehabilitation centre after it was encouraged by her management company.[12] She left the management company after this incident.[14] On October 22, 2006, based solely on download sales, it entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 19 and when the CD single was released the following week, it climbed to No. 7. On 14 January 2007, the album rose one spot from #2 to reach the #1 position on the UK Album Chart.

In early October 2006, Winehouse’s official website was re-launched with a new layout and clips of previously unreleased songs.[10] She appeared in an interview with Jools Holland on BBC Radio 2 on October 2, 2006 and was a guest on Later with Jools Holland on November 3, 2006. Winehouse performed three headline gigs in September 2006 and in November 2006 performed another ten across the UK, including headlining one of the Little Noise Sessions charity concerts at the Union Chapel, Islington. She is scheduled to headline another fourteen gigs over February 2007 – March 2007. On November 9, 2006 Winehouse announced she had been approached by one of the producers of the James Bond movies to sing the main theme of Bond 22.[15]

The second single from the album was “You Know I’m No Good“. The single was released on January 8, 2007 with a remix featuring rap vocals by Ghostface Killah. It made #18 in the UK singles chart and, in the same week’s chart, “Rehab” climbed back up to #20.

On the December 31, 2006, Winehouse 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 Hollands’ Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. She also performed Toots and the Maytals‘ “Monkey Man”.

[edit] Personal life

During the promotional phase of the album, Winehouse appeared repeatedly in the British press over personal issues. In September 2006, Winehouse was reported to have dropped four dress sizes because of comments made to her about her size.[16] In an interview in The Daily Telegraph Magazine (September 16, 2006), when asked if this was the cause she replied “No. No. I don’t listen to anyone except my … inner child anyway. If someone had said to me, Amy, lose a stone – which they wouldn’t – I don’t think I would have listened anyway.”

In the same month, The Independent published Winehouse is a clinically diagnosed manic depressive who refuses to take medication.[17] In October 2006, Winehouse admitted to have previously been affected by eating disorders. “A little bit of anorexia, a little bit of bulimia. I’m not totally OK now but I don’t think any woman is.”[18]

Over the next two months, Winehouse made multiple appearances in the British tabloids over alleged alcohol-induced behaviour. This included a ‘drunken’ appearance on The Charlotte Church Show (which appeared on YouTube),[19] heckling U2 member Bono during an acceptance speech at the Q Awards,[20] and incidents where she allegedly assaulted a fan after a concert[21][22] and an attendee at her album launch party.[23] When questioned during an interview about being violent when drunk, Winehouse responded “I have a really good time some nights, but then I push it over the edge and ruin my boyfriend’s night. I’m an ugly dickhead drunk, I really am.”[22]

On November 16, 2006 she appeared on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and faced repeated comments from host Simon Amstell that she should get a grip on what he claimed were her alcohol and drug problems. On January 7, 2007 Winehouse ended a gig at G-A-Y part way through her first song after vomiting, reportedly as a result of being intoxicated.[24]

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