Born on 14th of September 1983, Amy Winehouse was surrounded by jazz and soul music from an early age. Her father Mitch, a taxi driver, played his daughter records by Frank Sinatra, and the young Amy sang constantly- even, to the annoyance of her teachers, when she was sat in class. After her Grandma Cynthia suggesting her potential talent, Winehouse went on to attend the Sylvia Young Theatre School, but was expelled aged 14 for ‘not applying herself’ and piercing her nose. It was clear that Amy Winehouse was never going to be a clean-cut pop princess.
Her debut album ‘Frank’ was met positively by critics, despite the singer only being “80% behind” the record. It went on to win the Ivor Novello Songwriting Award, and a Mercury Prize nomination – but Winehouse knew she could do better. Returning to the studio and enlisting the help of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Winehouse went on to record ‘Back to Black’, which won 5 Grammies, and sold a cool 10 million copies.
Amy Winehouse was not cast in the mould of a typical female pop singer. She was rebellious, gritty, and her soulful smoked-stained voice was fresh to a tired industry. Influenced by Billy Holiday and Nina Simone, Winehouse shared their talent for writing raw and revealing lyrics, which came from her heart. Winehouse tackled her issues with mental health and drug addiction with wit and perception that won her many fans.
Winehouse was an artist that revitalised British music, and proved that a maverick could achieve widespread success. She paved the way for a new wave of alternative female artists, particularly Adele, but also Rumer, VV Brown and Janelle Monáe. Willingly admitting that she always chose the wrong guy, Winehouse, was refreshingly upfront and honest. She never allowed herself to be shaped by marketing coups, and showed other musicians that they could also be independent.
Of course there is a huge sense of sadness that like other talents such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse was lost at such a tragically young age. Regardless of personal issues, she was a mischievous, likeable and highly talented musician who should have, and could have given us so much more. She should not be remembered primarily for her scrapes with the law, nor for her drug addiction. We should remember Amy Winehouse for her fearless creativity, and for inspiring a generation of independent artists.