1 Love is a losing game - Tracing the life and music of Amy Winehouse

CityFM89 is paying homage to some of the most amazing female artists that have left us in recent times. Here is our special Face the Music, look at the life and times of Amy Winehouse…..Click the audio link to hear:

Amy Winehouse was a temptress. She was a lioness, a lover and a fashion icon. A London gal with buckteeth and big hair who became the ‘It’ girl of the Parisian fashion doyennes.

An antithesis of beauty, her messy birds nest of a beehive and kohl lashed eyes became the icons of an age, symbols of a new kind of rock & roll. She took the look of the Motown manufactured girl groups that she so admired and injected it with a whole load of gritty north London sass.

And then there was that voice, that luscious, rich, ancient voice that seduced you with its raw energy and called out to your soul like a siren from another age. A voice that broke records and garnered accolades, a voice that seared and burnt so bright that it scorched itself out leaving behind the charred remains of destruction and disrepair. Amy Winehouse lived like a rock star but tragically died like one too.

Amy Winehouse was born on 14 September 1983 to a Jewish family in a north London home alive with music. Her grandmother had been best friends with Ronnie Scot, the owner of Soho’s most iconic jazz club, and her taxi-driving, Sinatra-singing father Mitch instilled a deep love for music into the young Amy..

As a child she would sing along to the songs from the film American Graffiti and dream of serving ice cream on roller skates, like some All American Waitress from the 1950’s

Mitch’s marriage to Amy's mother, Janis, a pharmacist, came to an end when she was nine and she continued to live mostly with her mother. This is when she started her foray into music starting a rap group with her childhood friend called Sweet n Sour, She went onto a performing arts school to further her vocal education but was expelled at the age of 14 for getting her nose pierced. Amy’s loved to sing though and was soon performing with jazz orchestras and swing bands all over the city, anyone who would give her a platform and a chance to belt out those delicious vocals.

At the time Amy was dating soul Singer Tyler James who sent a demo tape of hers to a record company and suddenly 19 year old Amy Winehouse’s journey to celebrity and stardom went into overdrive. In a world where plastic reality tv stars and manufactured pop stars had become the norm Amy was mature fresh and in demand.

The kid who had adored the sugary girl groups of the 1960s had become a teenager with the style and sass of an ingénue raised in the speakeasies of Chicago during Prohibition..Behaving like smoky jazz clubs ran in her blood. In 2003 her first Album Frank was released and suddenly the world was at the feet of the fast talking, smooth singing urban teenager!

Reaching Platinum sales Frank won Amy the prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting Award for Best Contemporary Song.

In 2006 Britains music scene was dominated by girlbands such the sugababes. Soul had vanished from the airwaves. It was a time before Adele and Duffy soulful crooning. In October Amy released the album back to black, produced by Mark Ronson and Sam Raimi, it was fresh and gritty and full of a dark sensual voice steeped in a century of jazz and soul. Its songs were from the heart and bled out onto the airwaves with the beats and attitude that crackled with the contemporary snap of a 21st-century soulstress. There was nothing else really on the radio that sounded like it and the critics loved it.

As her fame grew so did her addictions and this would ultimately be accelerated by her relationship with heroin addict Blake Fielder-Civil. From the time they met for over half a dozen years they would carry on what would become popular culture’s bloodiest. druggiest, least predictable and most volatile love affair. It seemed that Amy was living the glamorous melancholy of her album.

As her album sales soared her weight dropped and the dewy faced Amy became skeletal and lost in the tattoos and wounds that she carved onto herself. In August 2007 Winehouse cancelled a number of shows in the UK and Europe, citing exhaustion and ill health. She was hospitalized during this period for what was reported as an overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol. Two months after she had tied the knot with Blake Fielder-Civil.

Soon the very pundits that had propelled her fame became her most violent detractors. She went from being the media’s pop princess to a troubled young woman photographed emaciated, bruised and bleeding, weeping over her jailed husband, slurring onstage and cancelling shows.

Every now and then rumors would spark about a potential musical project such as singing for the new James Bond soundtrack but these would soon be shot down by another tabloid story proclaiming her nightly drunken bouts on the streets of London. She did a cover of "It’s my party" with Mark Ronson but her work had dwindled into erratic nothingness. In the midst of it all, her talent remained unquenched, winning her five Grammy awards in February 2008.

She divorced Blake Fielder Civil in 2009 after a successful rehab stint on the island of St Lucia. However her flat in London was smack in the middle of Camden Town the centre of the city’s edgy drug crowd. She might have kicked drugs but began drinking to compensate, often being found sloshed outside her local pub. New ventures such as a follow up album to Back to black had begun but her tours were usually cancelled due to her erratic behavior . In March 2011 she recorded a duet with one of her idols Tony Bennet, four months later on the 23rd of July she was found dead by her bodyguard in her bedroom.

Amy Winhouse was like a whirlwind of talent and excess who had it all but lost it all just as quickly as she got it. The voice that was so sublimely lives on in her music but had been written off in her lifetime. She was bolshie yet vulnerable, bitter but funny and lived her life like the tragic songs she sang becoming a victim of her own inability to reign in her demons.

Written by: Sophia Saifi
Voiced by: Munizeh Sanai

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