“Amy Winehouse – Back to Black” is a 2018 released documentary about the creation of the singer’s 2006 breakthrough album. Its content focuses on her creativity and being a genius in making a remarkable album and performances. It diverts away from her chaotic life of battling drugs and alcohol, troubled relationship with her ex-husband and the suffocating paparazzi. But despite such success and downfall, who was really Amy Winehouse and what was her inspiration behind her dark-yet-edgy songs?
Let us get to know her more.
The “Popular and Controversial Pop Star” Amy Winehouse whose real name is Amy Jade Winehouse was born in September 14, 1982 in Chase Farm Hospital located in the suburb of Southgate London, England. She was born to a Jewish Family.
Amy’s Father, Mitchell Winehouse, was a window panel installer and a taxi driver at the same time while her Mother, Janis Winehouse was a pharmacist. Amy’s ancestors were Polish and Russian Jewish immigrant to London, England.
Amy had a brother named Alex, who was born in 1979. The Winehouse Family lived in Southgate area where she entered Osidge Primary School and also attended a Jewish Sunday School. But expressed her dismissal to the school after she rose to fame.
At an early age, Amy had an immense exposure to music. Most of her uncles in her mother’s side were professional Jazz musicians while her father used to sing with his family when he was a child.
Amy Winehouse’s grandmother (on her Father’s side) was heavily involved in Jazz music. She was romantically involved with legendary British Jazz musician, Ronnie Scott. Moreover, Amy grew up listening to the music of Sarah Vaughan and James Taylor.
Amy began drinking when she was 9 years old. Major cause of her drinking is her parents’ separation. During the weekdays, she lived with her mother and lived with her Father and his girlfriend, Hatfield Heath every weekend. She was troubled and depressed with no parent’s guidance.
When Amy reached 10 years old, she moved on from Jazz music and was interested in listening to American R&B and hip-hop acts like TLC and Salt-N-Pepa to name a few. With this influence, she formed her amateur rap group called Sweet ‘n Sour.
In 1992, her grandmother Cynthia recommended that Amy should further her vocal education and learn how to lap dance. She suggested Amy to enrol in Susi Earnshaw Theatre School. She went to this school for four years before being admitted in Sylvia Young Theatre School.
Sylvia Young Theatre School is a specialist in performing arts, a dream school for everyone. However at 14, Amy was expelled for not admitting herself and for putting a piercing on her nose. She began to break rules as a way to get her parent’s attention.
Together with other children from Sylvia Young School, Amy appeared in an episode of The Fast Show in 1997. She then later attended the Mount School, Mill Hill. She was also admitted in Brit School, Osidge JMI School and Ashmole School.
Even Amy was determined to reach her dreams; she still manages to have problems with her family. She began to stay all night out and drink to erase her devastation with her parents’ separation. She could not reach out to them because both parents are busy on their own.
After playing around her brother’s guitar, she bought her own and started writing songs the year after. She began working for a living as a journalist for World Entertainment News Network. She also worked as a singer of a local group called Bolsha Band.
When she was 16, she got her first big break when her schoolmate and close friend, Tyler James submitted her demo tape to an A&R person who was looking for a Jazz Vocalist. Amy was signed to Simon Fuller’s 19 Management in 2002 and earned £250 a week.
Her future A&R person at Island, Darcus Beesee, discovered Amy accidentally when the manager of The Lewinson Brothers showed him some of his clients’ productions. This featured Amy as a key vocalist. For some time, she was kept as a recording industry secret.
Beesee introduced Amy to his boss in Island, Nick Gatfield. Upon hearing her demos, Nick expressed her interest in signing in the young artist. When Amy was signed to Island, rivals from EMI and Virgin began making moves.
Beesee shared to different magazines and newspapers her excitement towards Amy. She was an epitome of what audience want that time. Most of the pop stars are generic and has offered nothing new to the industry; but Amy was different. She was fresh and genuine.
Amy released her debut album, Frank on October 20, 2003. It was produced by Salaam Remi and most of the songs are influenced by jazz. The album received positive reviews and was nominated for 2 BRIT Awards – “Female Solo Artist” and “British Urban Act”.
Later in 2004, Amy and Remi won the coveted Ivor Novello Award for “Best Contemporary Song” for their first song together, “Stronger than me”. “Frank” was also shortlisted for Mercury Music Prize in 2004.
After the release of “Frank”, Amy commented that she can only be credited for the 80% of the album because Island Records over-ruled the songs and mixes to be included. Other notable songs from the album are “Take the Box”, “Pumps/Help Yourself” and “In my Bed/You Sent me flying”.
Instead of focusing on her jazz roots like her first album, Amy’s focus shifted to the girl groups of 1950s and 1960s. She hired the long-time band of Sharon Jones – the Dap Kings to help her in the studio and her next album.
In the documentary “Amy, My Daughter”, her father described Amy as perfectionist and hands-on. She would record her songs in a CD and let his father play it on his taxi to know how most people would love to hear her music.
In May 2006, Amy’s demo tracks like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No good” appeared on Mark Ronson’s New York Show on East Village Radio. These songs were heard after the release of “Pumps” and will be included on her second album.
“Back to Black” is the 11-track second studio album of Amy Winehouse. It was released in the United Kingdom on October 30, 2006. Promotions began in early October which can be observed by re-launching of layout and clips of previously unreleased songs on her website.
“Back to Black” peaked at number 1 on UK Albums Chart for two weeks in January 2007. It dropped the top spot the week after but climbed through number 1 again for several weeks in February. It also peaked at number 7 on US Billboard 200.
“Back to Black” spawned five singles – Rehab, You know I’m No Good, Back to Black, Tears Dry on their Own and Love is a Losing Game. This album was acclaimed by critics who praised Amy’s song writing and unorthodox signing style as well as producer’s production.
At the 50th Grammy Awards, Back to Black won the Best Pop Vocal Album and nominated for the Album of the Year. It sold 3.58 million copies in the UK alone which was the UK’s 2nd best-selling album in the 21st century, next to Adele’s 21.
“Rehab” was the lead single of “Back to Black” album. It was written by Amy and considered to be autobiographical and expresses Amy’s refusal to enter a rehabilitation clinic. It peaked at number 7 in UK while number 9 in the US. It was considered as her signature song.
Amy’s management company encouraged her to enter an alcohol rehabilitation centre. She asked her dad’s advice, but her dad said “NO”. She joined for 15 minutes and explained she’s drinking because she screwed up her relationship but began when her dad left her mom when she was 9.
Mitch Winehouse was accused of capitalizing her daughter’s fame than her health. His disagreement to let Amy enter rehab is a missed opportunity to make her better. This was reflected on her song “Rehab”. Mitch continued to allow her daughter to work on his advantage.
Amy Winehouse was engaged with Blake Fielder-Civil in April 2007. She revealed that most of her songs from “Back to Black” were inspired by her relationship with the 23-year old man. On May 18, 2007, they married each other Miami, Florida.
Amy is a self-proclaimed marijuana smoker. She was controversial because of frequent reports of continued drug abuse and strange behaviour. On August 8, 2007, her North American tour was put on hold because she was hospitalized. Reports said Fielder-Civil is responsible for supplying illegal drugs to her.
According to reports, she was rushed to the hospital because of exhaustion. But Amy later admitted that she experienced drug overdose by mixing heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, whisky and vodka while bar hopping in London.
In Norway, while having her European tour in the fall of 2007, Winehouse, Fielder-Civil and a third unidentified person were help in prison overnight for marijuana possession. The trio was released later that night after paying $715.00 of fines.
After her arrest, Amy showed up at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena to perform but seemingly intoxicated during the performance. She received boos from the crowd and some of them walked-out. She then cancelled concerts and public appearances for the rest of 2007 citing “doctor’s orders”.
Despite her inconsistent touring schedule, Amy’s album continued to sell reaching nearly five times platinum that year. She was scheduled to perform at the 2008 Grammy Awards, but was denied of a U.S. Visa due to her public confession of using and abusing narcotics.
In spite of her musical success, her wealth and personal life began to deteriorate. In January 2009, Amy’s spokesperson confirmed that divorce proceedings had begun between Amy and her husband. Fielder-Civil filed divorce and cited adultery as the main reason.
She has attempted for a comeback and continued to set world records. She started her own record label which was called Lioness Records. The first artist to sign up was her 13-year old goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield.
Amy Winehouse died tragically on July 23, 2011 due to accidental alcohol poisoning. According to her sister, bulimia can also be the reason of her death making her weaker and susceptible to any kind of poisoning. Amy was 27 at her time of death.
Amy Winehouse’s enormous and one-of-a-kind talent was overshadowed by controversies related to her private life but more of addiction to drugs and alcohol. Despite of her brief time to the spotlight, Amy as considered an icon.