Amy Jade Winehouse - biography
Amy Jade Winehouse (born 14 September 1983) is an English singer-songwriter, known for her eclectic mix of various musical genres including R&B, soul, and jazz. Winehouse is best known for her powerful contralto vocals.
Winehouse's 2003 debut album Frank was critically successful in the UK, and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her 2006 follow-up album Back to Black led to six Grammy Award nominations and five wins, tying the record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made Winehouse the first British singer to win five Grammys, including three of the "Big Four": Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. On 14 February 2007, she won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist; she had also been nominated for Best British Album. She has won the Ivor Novello Award three times, one in 2004 for Best Contemporary Song (musically and lyrically) for "Stronger Than Me", one in 2007 for Best Contemporary Song for "Rehab", and one in 2008 for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for "Love Is a Losing Game", among other prestigious distinctions. The album was the third biggest seller of the 2000s in the United Kingdom. Winehouse has agreed to form a group with The Roots drummer ?uestlove.
Winehouse has been credited as being an influence in the rise in popularity of female musicians and soul music and revitalising British music. Winehouse's distinctive style has been the muse for fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld. The singer's problems with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-destructive behaviour, have become regular tabloid news since 2007. She and her former husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, were plagued by legal troubles that left him serving prison time. In 2008, Winehouse faced a series of health complications that threatened both her career and her life.
Winehouse was born in the Southgate area of north London to a Jewish family who shared her interest for jazz. She was raised in a family of four: her father Mitchell (taxi driver), her mother Janis (pharmacist), and her older brother Alex. Mitchell would constantly sing around the house, often singing Frank Sinatra to young Amy, who also took to a constant habit of singing to the point that teachers found it difficult keeping her quiet in class.
When Winehouse was nine years old, her grandmother, Cynthia, suggested she attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School for further training. At age ten, Winehouse founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet 'n' Sour with childhood friend Juliette Ashby. She stayed at the Earnshaw school for four years before seeking full time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School, but was allegedly expelled at 14 for "not applying herself" and for piercing her nose. With other children from the Sylvia Young School, she appeared in an episode of The Fast Show in 1997. She later attended the BRIT School in Selhurst, Croydon and attended Southgate School and Ashmole School.
After toying with her brother's guitar, Winehouse received her first guitar when she was 13, and began writing music a year later. She began working soon after, including as a "showbiz journalist" for the World Entertainment News Network, in addition to singing with a jazz band. Her sometimes boyfriend at the time, soul singer Tyler James, sent her demo tape to an A&R person.
Winehouse signed to Simon Fuller's 19 Management in 2002. While being developed by the management company, the artist was kept a industry secret. Her future A&R at Island/Universal, Darcus Beese, heard her by accident when the manager of The Lewinson Brothers showed him some productions of his clients on which Winehouse featured as 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. By this time Winehouse had already recorded a number of songs and signed a publishing deal with EMI. Through the publishers she formed a working relationship with the producer Salaam Remi.
Beese introduced Winehouse to his boss, Nick Gatfield, and the Island head shared his enthusiasm in signing the young artist. Winehouse was signed to Island/Universal as rival interest in Winehouse had started to build, with representatives at EMI and Virgin also starting to make moves. Beese told HitQuarters that he felt the reason behind the excitement over an artist that was an untypical pop star for the time was due to a backlash against reality TV music shows with audiences becoming starved of genuine young talent.
Major label success
Winehouse's debut album, Frank, was released on 20 October 2003. Produced mainly by Salaam Remi, many songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, every song was co-written by Winehouse. 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 won the Ivor Novello songwriting Award for Best Contemporary Song, alongside Salaam Remi, with her contribution to the first single, "Stronger Than Me". 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 percent behind [the] album" because of the inclusion by her record label of certain songs and mixes she disliked.
In contrast to her jazz-influenced former album, Winehouse's focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Winehouse hired New York singer Sharon Jones's longtime band, the Dap-Kings to back her up in the studio and on tour. In May 2006, Winehouse's demonstration 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 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 Winehouse because she was blunt when she did not like his work. Promotion of Back to Black soon began, and in early October 2006, Winehouse's official website was re-launched with a new layout and clips of previously unreleased songs.
Back to Black was released in the UK on 30 October 2006. It went to number one on the UK Albums Chart numerous times, and entered at number seven on the Billboard 200 in the United States. It was the best-selling album in the UK in 2007, selling 1.85 million copies over the year.
The album spawned a number of singles. The first single released from the album was the Ronson-produced "Rehab". The song reached the top ten in the UK and US. Time magazine named "Rehab" one of the 10 Best Songs of 2007, ranking it at number one. Writer Josh Tyrangiel praised Winehouse for her confidence, opining, "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 U.S., "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" and Just Friends 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 5 November 2007 in the UK. The bonus disc features B-sides, rare, and live tracks, as well as "Valerie". Winehouse's debut DVD I Told You I Was Trouble: Live in London was released the same day in the U.K. and 13 November in the U.S. It includes a live set recorded at London's Shepherds 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 20 November 2007 to positive reviews. The album debuted at number 61 on the Billboard 200 chart.
In addition to her own album, she has collaborated with other artists on singles. 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. The song was nominated for a 2008 Brit Award for "Best British Single". Her work with ex-Sugababe Mutya Buena, "B Boy Baby," was released on 17 December 2007. It served as the fourth single from Buena's solo debut album Real Girl.
By year's end, Winehouse had garnered numerous accolades and awards. The singer won 2008 Grammy Awards in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single "Rehab", while her album Back to Black was nominated for Album of the Year and won the Best Pop Vocal Album award. Producer Mark Ronson's work with her won the award in the Producer of the Year Non-Classical category. The singer also earned a Grammy in the 'Best New Artist' category. This earned Winehouse an entry in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act. She performed "You Know I’m No Good" and "Rehab" at the awards ceremony via satellite, as her visa approval came through too late for her to travel to the U.S. She said "This is for London because Camden town is burning down," in reference to the Camden Market fire. After the Grammy Awards, album sales increased catapulting Back to Black to number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 after initially peaking at number seven.
On 13 January 2008, Back to Black held the number one position on the Billboard Pan European charts for the third straight week. In January 2008, Universal Music International said it believed that there was a correlation between number of albums sold and the extensive media coverage the singer had received.
A special deluxe edition of "Back to Black" topped the UK album charts on 2 March 2008. The original edition of the album resided at the number 30 position, in its 68th week on the charts, while "Frank" charted at number 35. By 12 March, the album had sold a total of 2,467,575 copies, 318,350 of those 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 7 April, "Back to Black" was residing at the top position on the pan-European charts for the sixth consecutive and thirteenth aggregate week.
Back to Black was the world's seventh biggest selling album for 2008. These sales helped keep Universal Music's recorded music division from dropping to levels experienced by the overall music market.
At the 2008 Ivor Novello Awards, Winehouse became the first 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 bestselling British song. Winehouse was nominated for a MTV Europe Award in the Act of The Year category.
Amy Winehouse – The Girl Done Good: A Documentary Review, a 78-minute DVD, was released on 14 April 2008. The documentary features interviews with those who knew her at a young age, helped her gain success, jazz music experts, as well as music and pop culture specialists.
A clip of Winehouse's music is included in the "Roots and Influences" area that looks at connections between different artists at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, which opened in December 2008. One thread starts with Billie Holiday continues with Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and finishes with Winehouse.
In a poll of United States residents conducted for VisitBritain by Harris Interactive that was released in March 2009, one fifth of those polled indicated they had listened to Winehouse's music during the previous year. ] 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 13 July 2009.
Winehouse and Mark Ronson have contributed a cover of Lesley Gore's It's My Party for the Quincy Jones tribute album Q Soul Bossa Nostra scheduled for 11 November 2010 release.
Winehouse and drummer ?uestlove of the Roots have agreed to form a group. Winehouse's problems obtaining a visa have delayed the still unnamed group from working together. Producer Salaam Remi has already created some material with Winehouse as part of the project.
According to a newspaper report, Universal Music pressed her regarding new material in 2008. According to that same report Winehouse as of 2 September had not been near a recording studio. It was noted that she had touring obligations during the summer and also that if an album was quickly recorded, it would be at least a year before an album could be released. In late October, Winehouse's spokesperson was quoted as saying that Winehouse has not been given a deadline to complete her third album, for which she is learning to play drums.
During her 2009 stay in St. Lucia Winehouse worked on new music with producer Salaam Remi. It has been confirmed by Island that a new album is due in 2010, Island co-president Darcus Beese said, "I've heard a couple of song demos that have absolutely floored me".
In July 2010 Winehouse was quoted as saying her next album will 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.” Mark Ronson said he has not started to record the album.
Attributions of influence
British singer Adele has credited Winehouse's success in the United States for making her and fellow British singer Duffy's journey to the United States "a bit smoother". American singer Lady Gaga credited Winehouse with paving the way for her rise to the top of the charts. She appeared to be using a metaphorical analogy to explain that Winehouse made it easier for unconventional women to have mainstream pop success.
The "Winehouse phenomenon" has been credited by Sebastian Danchin, author of Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Soul, of kick-starting a revival of soul music that has been ongoing since 2000. Danchin quoting Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton, and John Legend said "Amy Winehouse was produced by people who wanted to create a marketing coup. The positive side is that it reacquainted an audience with this music and played an introductory role for others. This reinvigorated the genre by overcoming the vintage aspect".
The release of Back to Black and the emergence of Lily Allen has been credited by The Sunday Times as directly creating the market for the media proclaimed "the year of the women" in 2009 which has seen five female artists nominated for the Mercury Prize. After the album was released record companies sought out female artists with a similar sound and fearless and experimental female musicians in general. Adele and Duffy were the second wave of artists with a similar sound to Winehouse. A third wave of female musicians that has emerged since the album was released are led by VV Brown, Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Little Boots.
In February 2010, rapper Jay-Z credited Winehouse with revitalizing British music, saying, "There's a strong push coming out of London right now, which is great. It's been coming ever since I guess Amy (Winehouse). I mean always, but I think Amy, this resurgence was ushered in by Amy."
Touring and appearances
Winehouse toured in conjunction with the Back to Black album's release. She performed headlining gigs in September and November 2006, including one of the Little Noise Sessions charity concerts at the Union Chapel, Islington. On 31 December 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 Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. She also performed Toots & the Maytals' "Monkey Man". She began a run of another 14 gigs beginning in February 2007. At his request, Bruce Willis introduced Winehouse before her performance of "Rehab" at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. Winehouse made awards organizers nervous when she went on a Las Vegas jaunt in the hours before the show. During the summer of 2007, Winehouse performed at various festivals, including UK's Glastonbury Festival, Chicago's Lollapalooza festival, Rock Werchter and Baltimore's Virgin Music Festival.
Winehouse's 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 music 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, until she announced on 27 November 2007, that her performances and public appearances were cancelled for the remainder of 2007, citing doctor 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.
On 20 February 2008, 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 Paris, she performed what was described as a "well-executed 40 minute" set at the opening of a Fendi boutique.
Although her father, manager and various members of her touring team reportedly tried to dissuade her, 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.
Winehouse performed at Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday Party concert at London's Hyde Park on the 27 June, and the next day at the Glastonbury Festival. On 12 July at the Oxegen Festival she performed a well-received 50 minute set which was followed the next day by a 14 song set a T in the Park. On 16 August she played at the Staffordshire leg of the V Festival the following day played the Chelmsford leg of the festival. Organizers said that Winehouse attracted the biggest crowds of the festival. Audience reaction was reported as mixed. On 6 September she was the headliner at 'Bestival'. She performed what was described as a polished set which ended with her storming off the stage. Her hour late arrival caused her set to be cut off at the halfway point due to a curfew.
In May 2009 Winehouse returned to performing at a jazz festival in St. Lucia amid torrential downpours and technical difficulties. During her hour long 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 her set by walking off the stage in the middle of a song.
To a cheering crowd on 23 August at the V festival, Winehouse sang with The Specials on their songs "You're Wondering Now" and "Ghost Town".
In July 2010 she sang performed "Valarie" with Mark Ronson at a movie premiere. She sang lead but forgot some of the songs lyrics.
She performed "Valerie" again with Hackney Colliery Band at a concert in the Jazz Cafe in Camden in September 2010. She had joined the stage following an apology from the sousaphone player for an earlier disagreement.
On 10 July 2008, Winehouse launched her own club night, Snakehips at the Monarch, in the Camden Monarch venue in London. Although billed as a DJ battle between her and another DJ, she stayed behind the decks swaying as another person actually played 1960s music. She appeared at another Snakeships event at the Monarch on the night of 11 September. After reportedly arriving two hours late she spun music and played a short acoustic set.
Over the last several years there have been almost daily paparazzi published photographs of Winehouse. The singer has obtained an injunction against them under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The court order bans a leading paparazzi agency from following her. Photographers are also banned from following her within 100 meters of her home and photographing Winehouse in her home or the home of her friends and family. According to a newspaper report, sources close to the singer said legal action was taken out of concern for the safety of Winehouse and those close to her.
Winehouse married on-off boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil (born August 1978), a former video production assistant. on 18 May 2007, in Miami, Florida. Fielder-Civil was a "dropout" of Bourne Grammar School, who moved to London at aged 16 from his native Lincolnshire. In a June 2007 interview, Winehouse admitted she could be violent towards him when she had been drinking. In August 2007, they were photographed, bloodied and bruised, in the streets of London after an alleged fight, although she contended her injuries were self-inflicted. Winehouse's parents and in-laws publicly reported their numerous concerns, citing fears that the two might commit suicide, with Fielder-Civil's father encouraging fans to boycott her music. Fielder-Civil was quoted in a British tabloid as saying he introduced her to crack cocaine and heroin. During a visit with Mitch Winehouse at the prison in July 2008, Fielder-Civil reportedly said that they would cut themselves to ease the pain of withdrawal.
From 21 July 2008 to 25 February 2009, Fielder-Civil was imprisoned following his guilty plea on charges of trying to pervert the course of justice as well as a charge of grievous bodily harm with intent. The incident involved a July 2007 to an assault on a pub landlord that resulted in a broken cheek. According to the prosecution the landlord accepted £200,000 as part of a deal to "effectively throw the [court] case and not turn up". The prosecution testified that the money used to pay off the landlord belonged to Winehouse,.” but that Winehouse pulled out of a meeting with the men involved in the plot, because she had to attend an awards ceremony.
Winehouse was spotted with aspiring actor Josh Bowman on holiday in St. Lucia in early January 2009, saying she was "in love again, and I don't need drugs." She commented that the "whole marriage was based on doing drugs" and that "for the time being I've just forgotten I'm even married." On 12 January, Winehouse's spokesperson confirmed that "papers have been received" for what Fielder-Civil's solicitor has said is divorce proceedings based on a claim of adultery. On 25 February, Blake Fielder-Civil was quoted as saying that he planned to continue divorce proceedings to give himself a drug-free fresh start. In March Winehouse was quoted in a magazine as saying, "I still love Blake and I want him to move into my new house with me — that was my plan all along ... I won't let him divorce me. He's the male version of me and we're perfect for each other." Uncontested, the divorce was granted on 16 July 2009, and became final on 28 August 2009. Upon his request Fielder-Civil received no money in the settlement.