The tragic, short life of Amy Winehouse

When Amy Winehouse died at age 27, it sent a shockwave through the music industry. No one could say her death was unexpected, following her years of drug and alcohol abuse, but it was nevertheless a shock.

Starting in 2007, Amy became a regular feature in tabloids, thanks to her self-destructive behavior.  Even people who’d never heard of her or her music soon learned her name as they viewed photos of her stumbling, looking unkempt, her hair awry, along with stories about her latest escapades.

How did a London-born girl — the daughter of a taxi driver and a pharmacist — end up this way?

A child whose parents divorced when she was just nine, Amy was forever singing, to the point where teachers complained about her disrupting their classes. At 10, she formed a rap group with her best friend and a few years later, began training at Sylvia Young Theatre School.

After showing interest in her brother Alex’s guitar, Amy was given one of her own at 13, and began writing songs by the time she was 14. She sang with a local group and worked for a short time as a showbiz journalist for WENN. When soul singer Tyler James, who was her boyfriend at the time, sent her demo tape to an A&R person at Simon Fuller’s 19 Management in 2002, she was signed to record several songs with EMI.

Darcus Beese, an A&R rep for another label, heard her music and convinced her to sign with Island/Universal. She was the whole package – not just musical talent, but a unique look, with her beehive hairdo and Cleopatra makeup.

Amy’s debut album was released on October 2003. Titled “Frank,” every song was co-written by Amy with the exception of two covers. The jazz stylings brought comparisons to Sarah Vaughan and Macy Gray. Overall, the album was favorably reviewed by critics and received two BRIT Awards. It achieved platinum status and the following year, Amy won the Ivor Novello songwriting award for Best Contemporary Song for her first single, “Stronger Than Me.”

Her second album, “Back to Black,” had more of a 1950s/60s girl group feel. When it was released in October 2006, it went to number one on the UK Albums Chart and debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200. It went on to become the best-selling album in the UK in 2007, with over 1.85 million copies sold in the first year of release. Her single “Rehab” was named the Best Song of 2007 by Time magazine.

In 2008 Amy won numerous Grammy Awards – three for “Rehab,” one for “Back to Black,” and one for Best New Artist, earning her an entry in the 2009 Guiness Book of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act.

On May 18, 2007, Amy married Blake Fielder-Civil, an unemployed video production assistant. In June 2007, she admitted that their relationship was violent, and that she would “chin him” if he said something she didn’t like. They were photographed bruised and bloody on a London street after an alleged fight. Blake openly admitted turning Amy on to drugs, telling the News of the World that he introduced her to crack cocaine and heroin and that she’d almost died in front of him after suffering her first seizure.

In 2008, Blake was sent to prison following an assault on a pub landlord — and then bribing him to keep quiet about it so the case would be thrown out. While he was in prison, Amy was treated in a London hospital for COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), an irreversible lung condition believed to have been caused by smoking crack cocaine and cigarettes.

She later began seeing Josh Bowman and took a trip to the Caribbean with him. In January 2009, Blake filed for divorce on the grounds of Amy’s alleged infidelity. The divorce was granted in June 2009, while Blake was in rehab, following his stint in prison. Amy’s parents continued to blame her addiction and erratic behavior on Blake’s initial influence, and although she showed some improvement following a brief rehab stint in January 2008, she quickly slipped back into her old ways.

Finally in May 2011, she spent a week in rehab and agreed to return as an outpatient. Amy was to embark on a European tour, but when she was booed off the stage after slurring her way through songs at her first concert in Belgrade, the tour was cancelled.

Amy Winehouse was found dead July 23, 2011 at her home in Camden Square. The cause of death has not yet been determined. ~Alexandra Heilbron

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Comments & Discussion

  1. nadine • August 4, 2011 @ 5:30 PM

    her death is sooo sad she had so much life to give

  2. Joshua • August 4, 2011 @ 7:31 PM

    Its sad that she could have pulled it around in the end. We will never know now what she could have offered this world. RIP Amy.

  3. Fernalynn • August 4, 2011 @ 7:40 PM

    I never really knew who she was or what her music has become but this story is just such a tragedy.. I feel so sad just reading this story.. I give my condolences to her family and friends.. She was a pretty and still young singer.. It’s just so sad to hear that a talented person like Amy has passed.. You will always be remembered..

  4. anniegothergun • August 4, 2011 @ 8:17 PM

    I do not know what ot make of this. Most people who behave like this are usually subjected to some kind of trama, either sexual abuse, emotional abuse early on or some kind of genetic problem. look to the parents for what happened to her in her early life. was she neglected and abused some way to make her self destruct? i wonder. it is usually not all her fault, and i think parents have something to do with the permissive not caring liberal ideas

  5. Rita • August 5, 2011 @ 2:59 AM

    My heart goes out to Miss Winehouses’s Mom and Dad! I think what happened was she never got over her parents divorce. Hoping that they would someday get together again. She had such awesome talent!! I Valued it enormously and her too. Its Tough on Any Parent to loose a child that way or anyway!!

  6. Tuley • August 5, 2011 @ 10:27 AM

    Her taste in men was pathetic; Fielder-Civil is and was a useless douchebag, and apparently that’s what she likes. She was on an upward trend til she met him and circling the drain ever since. When I saw her ‘performance’ in Belgrade I knew she was done. If you can’t even pull it together for a few hours on the first day of your comeback tour, something in you is already dead and gone. RIP, Amy.

  7. c_0638 • August 5, 2011 @ 11:53 AM

    I can’t believe they don’t have the cause of her death yet. Really?! Come on.

  8. stalin • August 5, 2011 @ 3:12 PM

    what a bunch of bleeding heart psychologists trying to figure out what went wrong with Amy Winehouse! She met a guy who likes to get high and enjoyed it herself, got addicted and died because of it…why must there be a root cause? Sometimes people just like to get high.

  9. Edward Mclaughlin • August 7, 2011 @ 3:53 PM

    Thanks for an excellent article. Well written.

  10. mandee • August 9, 2011 @ 6:28 PM

    Tuley on August 5, 2011 10:27 AM her “taste in men” should have no bearing on her death, and what a terrible thing to say about someone that has passed away “something in you is already dead and gone” maybe she wasnt emotionally or physically READY for a comeback so she purposely got drunk and/or high to ruin her show, or maybe she was so nervous that she had a few to take care of her nerves and went a little overboard. no one knows her reasons, but i am CERTAIN you dont put in 100% at your job 100% of the time, should someone say that something about you is “already dead and gone”?

    rest in peace amy, although i never listened to your music at all, this is still really sad news. my heart goes out to your friends and family 🙁

  11. tammy • August 18, 2011 @ 5:18 PM

    this is a tradegy such shocking news when someone so talented is gone she will now be apart of the famous 27 club young talent gone I felt sorry for her really I believe she really did try to get better and I think when she got booed off stage it just trigered alot of emotions and she couldn’t handle it and needed to release all the pressure that these musicians have now adays obviously we don’t know what the reason for her passing away was but she didn’t do her body any good through the years of drug use. RIP

  12. Samson • October 27, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

    Well written but sad story about a life cut too short. She definitely took a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

  13. […] album Amy Winehouse was working on when she died of excessive alcohol consumption last July will be released December […]

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