Singer Amy Winehouse, the British singer and song writer, was found dead in her London flat on Saturday, July 23rd. She was 27.
Despite having only released two albums, Winehouse’s contribution to the music industry was big. Her debut album, “Frank,” released in 2003, was a quietly successful and critically acclaimed record. But her breakout came with 2006’s “Back to Black” which was both well-received and commercially successful. The album offered a poppy blend of blues, soul and doo-wop and sounded unlike anything else on the charts at that time. It was cool and retro and musically strong. She ended up winning a host of awards—five Grammys, a BRIT and several Ivor Novellos—over her short career. She’s also kick-started a renewed interest in classic soul music and allowed other female artists who followed her (like British singers Adele and Duffy) the opportunity to find success with similar sounds. In short, she was hugely successful in a short period of time. She had a unique sound, a unique look, and a sharp, honest personality in interviews and on stage.
But of course, she also had problems. Problems with drugs, with alcohol, with performing, with her health, with personal relationships, with the media. She was probably more famous for the gossip columns than her music. I only ever saw Winehouse perform live once, in 2007, after Back to Black had just been released in America. Honesty, it was not good. The thing was, her album was so good, and she herself was so talented and interesting, but her problems were already evident. In the short set I watched she slurred and forgot her own words. She was distracted and wandered away from her microphone mid-verse. She even left the stage for a period of time and was actually booed when she finally returned. It was a disaster. I wanted to hear Amy Winehouse—the brilliant and attention-grabbing singer that I’d heard on her records—but instead I got the girl from the tabloids.
After taking personal time to work and checking in and out of various hospitals and rehab centers a few times, Winehouse was set to start a 12-date European comeback tour on June 18th, 2011. It began and subsequently ended after only one show in Belgrade. The concert was terrible, the tour was canceled, and Winehouse returned to the UK to sort herself out.
The cause of her death is still unknown. Winehouse was allegedly working on new material for a third album but nothing was close to release, so most likely she’ll be remembered for only two superb albums and a few random singles from other projects. And perhaps unsurprisingly, having died at age 27, she joins a group of other enormously talented but troubled musicians who died before having their musical potential fully recognized.