I know there will be a lot of posts today- the anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s death- but I felt compelled to write one of my own. Amy was probably the one celebrity whose death shocked and upset me the most. Yes, she was troubled and battled so many demons, but she was also amazing in her own right. I make no apologies for the fangirl-ness of this post. I was a fan.
I think the fact that she was exactly six months older than me had something to do with it; someone, my age, with so much talent and ability was an awe-inspiring thing. This wasn’t something she had to work at, it was something she already had. And while people will always say how she threw it away, ultimately it was something that could have saved her. This huge voice that came from such a tiny body was such a phenomenal force that it sometimes seemed unreal.
I remember working at the Leeds Guide when Frank came out. The arts reporter was duly sent to interview the then 19 year old singer, who didn’t really make an impact until she boldly declared, “I am jazz.” We didn’t know whether it was arrogance or humour, but since reading interviews with Amy, I suspect her tongue was firmly in her cheek. After having a laugh at the finished article, I think we mainly forgot about her for a couple of years- I probably couldn’t have picked her out in a lineup.
The first time I really remember seeing her was the Christmas of 2005. She was on Hootenanny with Jools Holland, sat tipsily on the lap of her then boyfriend (who would later be replaced, maybe even re-replaced, with Blake.) I vaguely recognised her- this was pre-Back to Black, which was going to be on sale later that year. She was clearly happy and excited and the start of that amazing style she cultivated was there.
When Rehab came out, I was training to be a teacher. I first heard it on my way to the school where I was doing my first placement, in deepest darkest rural East Sussex. I remember asking Anthony, the teacher who was giving me a lift, who it was- I was convinced it was some Phil Spector, 60s song I’d never heard of and couldn’t work out who was singing. And then it all clicked into place- this was Amy Winehouse! I fell into fandom there and then.
Her lyrics were heartfelt, destructive and honest- all wrapped up in a Wall of Sound box, so different from everything else that was around (hence the reason we then had a slew of copycats. It sold well.) I honestly believe that she truly deserved the praise that Back to Black received, even though the acclaim seemed to further feed Amy’s destruction. Maybe she couldn’t cope with the attention, or the money opened avenues that would not have been otherwise available- but my word is that a cracking album.
I remember reading endless column inches about her destructive marriage and her battle with drugs and feeling angry. Angry that she could be wasting this talent and wishing that she would sort herself out, make more music. Which, of course, never really came to pass. To be honest, I found Lioness: Hidden Treasures a bit of a disappointment (also, Mark Ronson: I will never forgive you for ruining the sublime acoustic version of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow‘ with those stupid drums. Travesty, I tell you.)
Most of all, I’m sad that the Amy Winehouse that seems to be present in her sober interviews- funny, talented and intelligent- is no longer able to fulfil her potential. And so, I’ll be listening to Frank and Back to Black today rather loudly and, it has to be said, unashamedly. She will be missed for a very long time.