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Amy Winehouse

(September 14, 1983 - July 23, 2011)
Amy Winehouse

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Amy Jade Winehouse was born in Southgate, north London to a Jewish family. Her father Mitch was a double-glazing salesman who later became a taxi driver and her mother Janis, is a pharmacist. They separated when Amy was nine.
Amy grew up listening to her father's Jazz albums, and her grandmother was once engaged to the English Jazz tenor saxophonist and jazz club owner, Ronnie Scott. She also came under the influence from an early age of her uncles who were professional Jazz players.
At the age of ten, Amy founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet 'n' Sour with childhood friend Juliette Ashby.
Amy caught the performing bug early, and by the age of eight she was attending the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School. She later was a pupil at the Sylvia Young theatre school in central London, from which she was asked to leave because she was disrupting lessons and "not applying herself." Amy then had a short spell at the Brit School in Croydon, south London.
Amy made her first television appearance in 1997 when with other children from the Sylvia Young School, she appeared in an episode of the BBC comedy sketch series The Fast Show.
Amy's rebellious instincts began to surface in her mid-teens. By the age of 16, she had acquired her first tattoo and was smoking cannabis.
She received her first guitar when she was 13, and began writing music a year later. Winehouse's significant break came at 16, when a former boyfriend, soul hopeful Tyler James, sent a tape of her singing with a Jazz band to his A&R manager. It led to a contract with the Island/Universal record label and a publishing deal with EMI.
Winehouse's greatest musical love was 1960s girl groups. Her stylist Alex Foden borrowed her beehive hairdo and her Cleopatra makeup from groups like The Ronettes.
Winehouse's debut album, the jazz-infused Frank, was released on October 20, 2003. It received generally positive reviews from most music critics and earned Winehouse several accolades, including an Ivor Novello Award for the first single "Stronger Than Me."
Winehouse's second album Back To Black, was released on October 4, 2006. Most of the songs were inspired by her relationship and break up with her then boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil. They later got together again and got married at a secret ceremony in Miami in May 2007. The relationship ended when Fielder-Civil received a jail sentence of 27 months the following July.
Back To Black earned Winehouse a succession of awards, most notably five Grammies including three of the "Big Four": Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It was the biggest-selling album of 2007 worldwide, with over 5.5 million copies sold that year, topping the charts in 18 countries. In the United Kingdom it was the third biggest seller of the 2000s.
Winehouse battled drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and self-destructive behaviours throughout her career. After the success of Back To Black her problems with substance abuse became regular tabloid news until her death. Typically forthright, she drew attention to her alcohol problems in Back to Black's first single, "Rehab," which became her signature song.
Winehouse's last public appearance took place at Camden's Roundhouse, London on July 20, 2011, when she made a surprise guest appearance on stage to support her goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield. Video footage shows Amy shimming and coaxing cheers from the audience, as her goddaughter sings "Mama Said."
Winehouse was found dead on July 23, 2011, at her home in London. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. In October, the coroner reported that her death was caused by alcohol poisoning, with her blood-alcohol level 5 times over the legal driving limit at the time of her death.

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Don't let her tragic end fool you: Ms. Winehouse changed the course of popular music in the 2000's the way Elvis did in the 1950's, the Beatles in the 1960's, Elton John in the 1970's, Prince in the 1980's and Nirvana in the 1990's. Ms. Winehouse's songwriting style reminds me of Carole King crossed with Prince with a sprinkling of Monty Python-like humor. Ms. Winehouse's story mirrors that of her idol Carole King: both were child prodigies, both self-determined, both had bad cases of stage fright and both entered bad relationships. Ms. Winehouse never set out to be famous in the first place. She just happened to have had a sound that was different at the time. She ushered in a new era for women in music as well as music in general. There was no one like her at the time.
- Dana, Woodbury, MN, MN
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