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Amy Winehouse died aged twenty-seven on 23rd July 2011 at her home in Camden, London, U.K. Amy Winehouse's bodyguard said that he had arrived at her residence three days before her death and felt she had been somewhat intoxicated. He observed moderate drinking over the next few days. He observed her "laughing, listening to music and watching TV at 2 a.m. the day of her death". According to the bodyguard, at 10 a.m. he observed her lying on her bed and tried unsuccessfully to rouse her. This did not raise much suspicion because she usually slept late after a night out. According to the bodyguard, shortly after 3 pm, he checked on her again and observed her lying in the same position as before, leading to a further check, in which he concluded that she was not breathing and had no pulse. He said he subsequently called emergency services.
Two ambulances were called to Amy Winehouse's home in Camden, London and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Shortly afterwards, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that she had died. After her death was announced, media and camera crews appeared, as crowds gathered near Amy Winehouse's residence to pay their respects. Forensic investigators entered the flat as police cordoned off the street outside; they recovered one small and two large bottles of vodka from her room. After her death, the singer broke her second Guinness World Record: for the most songs by a woman to simultaneously appear on the UK singles chart, with eight.
A coroner's inquest reached a verdict of misadventure. The report released on 26th October 2011 explained that Amy Winehouse's blood alcohol content was 416 mg per 100 ml (0.416%) at the time of her death, more than five times the legal drink-drive limit. According to the coroner, "The unintended consequences of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden death."
On 17th December 2012, British authorities reopened the probe of Amy Winehouse's death. On 8th January 2013, a second inquest confirmed that Amy Winehouse died of accidental alcohol poisoning. In a late June 2013 interview, Alex Winehouse revealed his belief that his sister's eating disorder, and the consequent physical weakness, was the primary cause of her death.
Amy Winehouse was born on 14th September 1983 in North London, to Jewish parents. Her father, Mitchell "Mitch" Winehouse, was a window panel installer and then a taxi driver; and her mother, Janis Winehouse was a pharmacist. Amy Winehouse's ancestors were Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants to London. Amy had an older brother, Alex and the family lived in London's Southgate area where she attended Osidge Primary School.
Some of Amy Winehouse's maternal uncles were professional jazz musicians. Amy's paternal grandmother, Cynthia, was a singer and dated the English jazz saxophonist Ronnie Scott. She and Amy's parents influenced Amy's interest in jazz. Her father, Mitch, often sang Frank Sinatra songs to her and whenever she got chastised at school, she would sing "Fly Me to the Moon" before going up to the headmistress to be told off. Amy Winehouse's parents separated when she was nine, and she lived with her mother and stayed with her father and his girlfriend in Hatfield Heath, Essex, on weekends.
In 1992, her grandmother Cynthia suggested that Amy attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School, where she went on Saturdays to further her vocal education and to learn to tap dance. Amy attended the school for four years and founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet 'n' Sour, with Juliette Ashby, her childhood friend, before seeking full-time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School. Amy Winehouse was allegedly expelled at fourteen for "not applying herself" and also for piercing her nose. " Amy also appeared in an episode of The Fast Show, 1997, with other children from the Sylvia Young School and later attended the Mount School, Mill Hill; the BRIT School in Selhurst, Croydon; Osidge JMI School and then Ashmole School.
After toying around with her brother Alex's guitar, Amy Winehouse bought her own when she was fourteen and began writing songs a year later. Soon after, she began working for a living, including, at one time, as an entertainment journalist for the World Entertainment News Network, in addition to singing with local group the Bolsha Band. In July 2000, she became the featured female vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra; her influences were to include Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, the latter whom she was already listening to at home. Amy's best friend, soul singer Tyler James, sent her demo tape to an A&R person. Amy Winehouse signed to Simon Fuller's 19 Management in 2002 and was paid £250 a week against future earnings. While being developed by the management company, she was kept as a recording industry secret although she was a regular jazz standards singer at the Cobden Club. Her future A&R representative at Island, Darcus Beese, heard of her by accident when the manager of The Lewinson Brothers showed him some productions of his clients, which featured Amy Winehouse as key vocalist. When he asked who the singer was, the manager told him he was not allowed to say. Having decided that he wanted to sign her, it took several months of asking around for Beese to eventually discover who the singer was. However, Amy Winehouse had already recorded a number of songs and signed a publishing deal with EMI by this time.
Beese introduced Amy Winehouse to his boss, Nick Gatfield, and the Island head shared his enthusiasm in signing the young artist. Amy Winehouse was signed to Island, as rival interest in Amy had started to build to include representatives of EMI and Virgin starting to make moves. Beese told HitQuarters that he felt the reason behind the excitement, over an artist who was an atypical pop star for the time, was due to a backlash against reality TV music shows, which included audiences starved for fresh, genuine young talent.
Amy Winehouse's debut album, 'Frank', was released on 20th October 2003. Produced mainly by Salaam Remi, many songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, Amy Winehouse co-wrote every song. The album received positive reviews with compliments over the "cool, critical gaze" in its lyrics and brought comparisons of her voice to Sarah Vaughan, Macy Gray and others.
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 achieve platinum sales. Later in 2004, she and Remi won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song, for their first single together, "Stronger Than Me." The album was also shortlisted for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. In the same year, she performed at the Glastonbury Festival – Jazzworld, the V Festival and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. After the release of the album, Amy Winehouse commented that she was "only 80 percent behind the album" because Island Records had over-ruled her preferences for the songs and mixes to be included. Further singles from the album were "Take the Box," "In My Bed"/"You Sent Me Flying" and "Pumps"/"Help Yourself."
In contrast to her jazz-influenced former album, Amy Winehouse's focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Amy Winehouse hired New York singer Sharon Jones's longtime band, the Dap-Kings, to back her up in the studio and on tour. Mitch Winehouse relates in 'Amy,My Daughter' how fascinating watching her process was: her perfectionism in the studio and how she would put what she had sung on a CD and play it in his taxi outside to know how most people would hear her music. In May 2006, Amy Winehouse's demo tracks such as "You Know I'm No Good" 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 after the release of "Pumps" and both were slated to appear on her second album. The 11-track album, completed in five months, was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Ronson, with the production credits being split between them. Ronson said in a 2010 interview that he liked working with Amy Winehouse because she was blunt when she did not like his work. She in turn thought that when they first met, he was a sound engineer and that she was expecting an older man with a beard. Promotion of Back to Black soon began and, in early October 2006 Amy Winehouse's official website was relaunched with a new layout and clips of previously unreleased songs. Back to Black was released in the UK on 30th October 2006. It went to number one on the UK Albums Chart for two weeks in January 2007, dropping then climbing back for several weeks in February. In the USA it entered at number seven on the Billboard 200. It was the best-selling album in the UK of 2007, selling 1.85 million copies over the course of the year.
The album spawned a number of hit singles. The first single released from the album was the Ronson-produced "Rehab." The song reached the top ten in the UK and the US. Time magazine named "Rehab" the Best Song of 2007. Writer Josh Tyrangiel praised Amy Winehouse for her confidence, saying, "What she is mouthy, funny, sultry, and quite possibly crazy" and "It's impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson that references four decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you've got the best song of 2007." The album's second single and lead single in the US, "You Know I'm No Good," was released in January 2007 with a remix featuring rap vocals by Ghostface Killah. It ultimately reached number 18 on the UK singles chart. The title track, "Back to Black," was released in the UK in April 2007 and peaked at number 25, but was more successful across mainland Europe. "Tears Dry on Their Own," "Love Is a Losing Game" were also released as singles, but failed to achieve the same level of success.
A deluxe edition of 'Back to Black' was also released on 5th November 2007 in the UK. The bonus disc features B-sides, rare, and live tracks, as well as "Valerie." Amy Winehouse's debut DVD 'I Told You I Was Trouble: Live in London' was released the same day in the UK and 13th November in the USA. It includes a live set recorded at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire and a 50-minute documentary charting the singer's career over the previous four years. 'Frank' was released in the United States on 20th November 2007 to positive reviews. The album debuted at number 61 on the Billboard 200 chart. In addition to her own album, she collaborated with other artists on singles. Amy Winehouse was a vocalist on the song "Valerie" on Ronson's solo album Version. The song peaked at number two in the UK, upon its October single release. "Valerie" was nominated for a 2008 Brit Award for "Best British Single." Amy's work with ex-Sugababe Mutya Buena, "B Boy Baby," was released on 17th December 2007. It served as the fourth single from Buena's debut album, Real Girl.
Amy Winehouse toured in conjunction with the Back to Black album's release, performing headliners in September and November 2006, including a Little Noise Sessions charity concert at the Union Chapel in Islington, North London. On 31st December 2006, Amy Winehouse appeared on Jools Holland's Annual Hootenanny live on the BBC and performed a cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" along with Paul Weller and Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. She also performed Toots and the Maytals' "Monkey Man". She began a run of another fourteen gigs beginning in February 2007. At his request, Hollywood star Bruce Willis introduced Winehouse before her performance of "Rehab" at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards in Universal City, California. She had made awards organizers nervous when she went on a Las Vegas jaunt in the hours before the show. During the summer of 2007, she performed at various festivals, including the Isle of Wight Festival and Glastonbury Festival in England, Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, Belgium's Rock Werchter and Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore.
The rest of her tour, however, did not go as well. In November 2007 the opening night of a 17-date tour was marred by booing and walkouts at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. A critic for the Birmingham Mail said it was "one of the saddest nights of my life...I saw a supremely talented artist reduced to tears, stumbling around the stage and, unforgivably, swearing at the audience." Other concerts ended similarly, with, for example, fans at her Hammersmith Apollo performance in London saying that she "looked highly intoxicated throughout," until she announced on 27th November 2007, that her performances and public appearances were cancelled for the remainder of the year, citing her doctor's advice to take a complete rest. A statement issued by concert promoter Live Nation blamed "the rigours involved in touring and the intense emotional strain that Amy has been under in recent weeks" for the decision. Mitch Winehouse wrote about her nervousness before public performances in his 2012 book, Amy, My Daughter.
On 13th January 2008, 'Back to Black' held the number-one position on the Billboard Pan European charts for the third consecutive week. On 20th February 2008, Amy Winehouse performed at the 2008 Brit Awards, performing "Valerie" with Mark Ronson, followed by "Love Is a Losing Game." She urged the crowd to "make some noise for my Blake."
In February 2008, Amy Winehouse also won Grammy Awards in the following categories: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single "Rehab," and Best Pop Vocal Album. Additionally, Back to Black was nominated for Album of the Year. Ronson's work with her won the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, in the non-classical category. The singer also earned a Grammy as Best New Artist, earning her an entry in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act. She ended her acceptance speech for Record of the Year with, "This is for London because Camden town ain't burning down," in reference to the Camden Market fire. Amy Winehouse was forced to perform "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" for the awards ceremony via satellite, as her visa approval had not been processed in time.
After the Grammys, the album's sales increased, catapulting 'Back to Black' to number two on the US Billboard 200, after it initially peaked in the seventh position. A special deluxe edition of 'Back to Black' topped the UK album charts on 2nd March 2008. Meanwhile, the original edition of the album was ranked at number 30 in its 68th week on the charts, while 'Frank' charted at number 35.
In Paris, Amy performed what was described as a "well-executed 40-minute" set at the opening of a Fendi boutique in early March. By 12th March, the album had sold a total of 2,467,575 copies; 318,350 copies had been sold in the previous 10 weeks putting the album on the UK's top-10 best-selling albums of the 21st century for the first time. On 7th April, 'Back to Black' was in the top position of the pan-European charts for the sixth consecutive and thirteenth aggregate week. Amy Winehouse – The Girl Done Good: A Documentary Review, a 78-minute DVD, was released on 14th April 2008. The documentary features interviews with those who knew her at a young age, people who helped her achieve success, jazz music experts, and music and pop-culture specialists.
At the 2008 Ivor Novello Awards in May, Amy Winehouse became the first-ever artist to receive two nominations for the top award: best song, musically and lyrically. She won the award for "Love Is a Losing Game" and was nominated for "You Know I'm No Good." "Rehab," a Novello winner for best contemporary song in 2006, also received a 2008 nomination for best-selling British song. Amy Winehouse was also nominated for a 2008 MTV Europe Award in the "Act of the Year" category.
Although her father, manager and various members of her touring team reportedly tried to dissuade her, Amy Winehouse performed at the Rock in Rio Lisboa festival in Portugal in May 2008. Although the set was plagued by a late arrival and problems with her voice, the crowd warmed to her. In addition to her own material she performed two Specials covers. Amy Winehouse performed at Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday Party concert at London's Hyde Park on 27th June, and the next day at the Glastonbury Festival. On 12th July, at the Oxegen Festival she performed a well-received 50-minute set which was followed the next day by a 14-song set at T in the Park.
On 16th August she played at the Staffordshire leg of the V Festival, and the following day played the Chelmsford leg of the festival. Organizers said that Amy Winehouse attracted the biggest crowds of the festival. Audience reaction was reported as mixed. On 6th September, she was Bestival's Saturday headliner, where her performance was described as polished—terminated by a curfew as the show running overdue, after Amy Winehouse started an hour late—and her storming off stage.
A clip of Amy Winehouse's music was included in the "Roots and Influences" area that looked at connections between different artists at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, which opened in December 2008. One thread started with Billie Holiday, continued with Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige, and then finished with Winehouse.
'Back to Black' was the world's seventh-biggest-selling album of 2008. The album's sales meant that the market performance of Universal Music's recorded music division did not drop to levels experienced by the overall music market.
In a poll of US residents conducted for VisitBritain by Harris Interactive, the results of which were released in March 2009, one-fifth of those polled indicated they had listened to Amy Winehouse's music during the previous year. Amy Amy Winehouse performed with Rhythms del Mundo on their cover of the Sam Cooke song, "Cupid," for an Artists Project Earth benefit album that was released on 13th July 2009.
Amy Winehouse and Ronson contributed a cover of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party" to the Quincy Jones tribute album Q Soul Bossa Nostra released 9th November 2010. Amy Winehouse and drummer Questlove of The Roots had agreed to form a group but her problems obtaining a visa delayed their working together: Salaam Remi had already created some material with Amy Winehouse as part of the project. According to The Times, Universal Music pressed her for new material in 2008, and Amy Winehouse as of 2nd September had not been near a recording studio. In late October Amy Winehouse's spokesman was quoted as saying that Amy Winehouse had not been given a deadline to complete her third album, for which she was learning to play drums.
In May 2009 Amy Winehouse returned to performing at a jazz festival in Saint Lucia amid torrential downpours and technical difficulties. During her set it was reported she was unsteady on her feet and had trouble remembering lyrics. She apologised to the crowd for being "bored" and ended the set in the middle of a song. To a cheering crowd on 23rd August at the V festival, Winehouse sang with The Specials on their songs "You're Wondering Now" and "Ghost Town." During her stay in Saint Lucia, she also worked on new music with Salaam Remi. Island claimed that a new album would be due in 2010 with Island co-president Darcus Beese saying, "I've heard a couple of song demos that have absolutely floored me." In July 2010, Amy Winehouse was quoted as saying her next album would be released no later than January 2011, saying "It's going to be very much the same as my second album, where there's a lot of jukebox stuff and songs that are... just jukebox, really." Ronson said the same month however that he had not started to record the album. She performed "Valerie" with Ronson at a movie premiere but forgot some of the song's lyrics. In October Amy Winehouse performed a four-song set to promote her fashion line. In December 2010, she played a 40-minute concert at a Russian oligarch's party in Moscow, the tycoon hand picking the songs.
On 18th June 2011, Amy Winehouse started her twelve-leg 2011 European tour in Belgrade. Local media described her performance as a scandal and disaster, and she was booed off the stage due to her apparently being too drunk to perform. It was reported that she was unable to remember the city she was in, the lyrics of her songs or—when trying to introduce them—the names of the members of her band. The local press also claimed that Amy Winehouse was forced to perform by her bodyguards, who did not allow her to leave the stage when she tried to do so. She then pulled out of performances in Istanbul and Athens which had been scheduled for the following week. On 21st June, it was announced that she had cancelled all shows of her tour and would be given "as long as it takes" to sort herself out.
Amy Winehouse's last public appearance took place at Camden's Roundhouse, London on 20 July 2011, when she made a surprise appearance on stage to support her goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield, who was singing "Mama Said" with The Wanted.
Amy Winehouse's last recording was a duet with American singer Tony Bennett for his latest album, Duets II, released on 20th September 2011. Their single from the album, "Body and Soul," was released on 14th September 2011 on MTV and VH1 to commemorate what would have been her 28th birthday. Her father, Mitch Winehouse, launched the Amy Winehouse Foundation with the goal of raising awareness and support for organisations that help vulnerable, young adults with problems such as addiction. Proceeds from "Body and Soul" benefit the Amy Winehouse Foundation. The song received the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards on 12th February 2012. Amy Winehouse's father, Mitch Winehouse, picked up the award at the awards ceremony with his wife Janis, saying, "We shouldn't be here. Our darling daughter should be here. These are the cards that we're dealt."