Sun, July 24, 2011
Entertainment > Celebrity

Troubled diva Amy Winehouse dead at 27(2)

2011-07-24 08:50:36 GMT2011-07-24 16:50:36(Beijing Time)  SINA.com

British pop singer Amy Winehouse performs during the Glastonbury music festival in Somerset, south-west England in this June 22, 2007 file photo. Winehouse has been found dead at her home in north London, Sky News reported on July 23, 2011. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Files

Fans who had kept the faith waited in vain for a followup to "Back to Black."

Born in 1983 to taxi driver Mitch Winehouse and his pharmacist wife Janis, Winehouse grew up in the north London suburbs, and was set on a showbiz career from an early age. When she was 10, she and a friend formed a rap group, Sweet 'n' Sour — Winehouse was Sour — that she later described as "the little white Jewish Salt 'n' Pepa."

She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, a factory for British music and acting moppets, later went to the Brit School, a performing arts academy in the "Fame" mold, and was originally signed to "Pop Idol" svengali Simon Fuller's 19 Management.

But Winehouse was never a packaged teen star, and always resisted being pigeonholed.

Her jazz-influenced 2003 debut album, "Frank," was critically praised and sold well in Britain. It earned Winehouse an Ivor Novello songwriting award, two Brit nominations and a spot on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize.

But Winehouse soon expressed dissatisfaction with the disc, saying she was "only 80 percent behind" the album.

"Frank" was followed by a slump during which Winehouse broke up with her boyfriend, suffered a long period of writer's block and, she later said, smoked a lot of marijuana.

"I had writer's block for so long," she said in 2007. "And as a writer, your self-worth is literally based on the last thing you wrote. ... I used to think, 'What happened to me?'

"At one point it had been two years since the last record and (the record company) actually said to me, 'Do you even want to make another record?' I was like, 'I swear it's coming.' I said to them, 'Once I start writing I will write and write and write. But I just have to start it.'"

The album she eventually produced was a sensation.

Released in Britain in the fall of 2006, "Back to Black" brought Winehouse global fame. Working with producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi and soul-funk group the Dap-Kings, Winehouse fused soul, jazz, doo-wop and, above all, a love of the girl-groups of the early 1960s with lyrical tales of romantic obsession and emotional excess.

"Back to Black" was released in the United States in March 2007 and went on to win five Grammy awards, including song and record of the year for "Rehab."

Music critic John Aizlewood attributed her trans-Atlantic success to a fantastic voice and a genuinely original sound.

"A lot of British bands fail in America because they give America something Americans do better — that's why most British hip-hop has failed," he said. "But they won't have come across anything quite like Amy Winehouse."

Winehouse's rise was helped by her distinctive look — black beehive of hair, thickly lined cat eyes, girly tattoos — and her tart tongue.

She was famously blunt in her assessment of her peers, once describing Dido's sound as "background music — the background to death" and saying of pop princess Kylie Minogue, "she's not an artist ... she's a pony."

The songs on "Black to Black" detailed breakups and breakdowns with a similar frankness. Lyrically, as in life, Winehouse wore her heart on her sleeve.

"I listen to a lot of '60s music, but society is different now," Winehouse said in 2007. "I'm a young woman and I'm going to write about what I know."

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