Since 1979, I had long forgotten about the idea of anything exciting happening in music until I heard something on WFUV one night in the summer of 2006. It was a new female singer from the UK with a soulful voice I had not heard in years. The song was called “Back To Black”. The singer was Amy Winehouse.
I had noticed a resurgence of soul music coming from the Brits when I heard Joss Stone a few years earlier. Joss was a 16-year-old prodigy with a voice like Aretha Franklin. Her first album, Soul Sessions, is mind-blowing. However, Joss was a glossy pop star and sometimes went into over-singing, Mariah Carey territory. Great singer, not enough attitude.
Amy was a raw, dirty, drunk girl in high heels and a backing band that reminded me of everything I loved about bands like The Specials and The Blockheads. She was a throwback, but to the right era and what Joss lacked in attitude, Amy had in excess. I started reading about her stage antics, her drinking, her brash crude ways and thought, “man I hope this is real, because I really like it”
Turned out it was. Amy Winehouse went on to international stardom when her second album, “Back To Black” hit. Her mega-hit “Rehab” was this millennium’s punk opus. It you think about it, a drug addict refusing to get help in this overly self-aware world is about as punk rock as you can get nowadays.
Aside from that song, which I think is her worst song, the rest of this record is amazing. The production is reminiscent of Motown and ska. It’s brilliantly produced by Mark Ronson, but it works because Amy Winehouse was a genius at interpreting a song. I still listen to “Back To Black.” In my opinion, it’s the best album of the new millennium. It has not been topped.
Sadly, she was on a self-destructive path.
There have been countless arguments about her place in rock n roll history. Some say she wasn’t around long enough to be an icon. I disagree.
Amy Winehouse deserves the same notoriety as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and all the others in the infamous 27 club. She was a brilliant singer, a true artist that sparked a wave of soul music. Amy gave birth to Adele, Duffy and the Brit soul explosion still happening today. But Amy was better than all of them. The others riding her coattails are just glossy versions. Amy was real. She meant it. She was as real as The Sex Pistols. She lived every song. You felt it. Nobody comes close.
The saddest part is Amy Winehouse was ridiculed and berated in the tabloids for her drug addiction. She died and was given 1/8th the press than that bigger crack head, Whitney Houston.
Amy Winehouse did more for music on one album than Whitney Houston did in her 30 year career.
The mistreatment of her legacy is shameful, but in a way, it fits her character. She refused to fit in with the crowd. Amy was a punk rocker to the end.
She never released a third album. They wanted her to make a poppier record and she said No, No, NO.
RIP Amy Winehouse – September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011
Check out these AMAZING live performances. This girl was brilliant !!!