Birth and Early Life:
Amy Winehouse was born September 14, 1983 in the Southgate area of north London. Her father was a taxi driver and mother a pharmacist. Amy Winehouse’s family included many jazz musicians, so she grew up surrounded by jazz music. As a teenager she became interested in American r&b; and hip hop musicians, and she even formed an amateur rap group for a brief period. After Amy Winehouse was expelled from school at age 16, singer Tyler James passed a demo of her singing to record company talent scouts ultimately leading to a recording contract with Island Records.
Quote from Amy Winehouse:
On her musical style in an interview with Music OMH:
“I take a lot from jazz musically and a lot from hip-hop lyrically. I am a jazz singer but my album is straight hip-hop… I would say that people in creative hip-hop are the jazz of today.”
Amy Winehouse’s debut album Frank was released in October, 2003. All of the songs were co-written by Winehouse and most of the production work was done by hip hop producer Salaam Remi. Critics fell in love with the album. Amy Winehouse was nominated for Top Female Solo Singer at the Brit Awards. The song “Stronger Than Me” won the prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award, and the album was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. The album reached #13 on the UK album chart and eventually was certified platinum for sales.
Amy Winehouse’s Personal Difficulties:
Amy Winehouse’s music was not the only aspect of her life that generated headlines in the music media. In the publicity leading to release of her second album Back to Black, she indicated she had suffered from eating disorders and lost a significant amount of weight after the release of Frank due to comments about her size in the press. Amy Winehouse also gained notoriety from appearing at public events and on television in an obviously intoxicated state.
Back to Black:
Back to Black, Amy Winehouse’s second album, Back to Black, was released in October, 2006. It quickly reached #1 on the UK album chart and debuted at #7 on the US album chart when finally released in March, 2007. At that time, it was the highest debut on the US chart ever by a UK female solo artist. The single “Rehab,” inspired by Amy Winehouse’s refusal to enter an alcohol rehabilitation facility, rose into the UK pop singles top 10.
- 2004 – Ivor Novello Award – Best Contemporary Song – “Stronger Than Me”
- 2004 – Mercury Prize – Shortlist
- 2007 – Brit Awards – Best Female Solo Artist
- 2007 – Ivor Novello Award – Best Contemporary Song – “Rehab”
- 2007 – Elle Style Awards – Best British Music Act
US Pop Breakthrough:
Back to Black debuted inside the top 10 on the US pop album chart in March, 2007 in large part due to the crush of positive press about Amy Winehouse’s music. However, without a signficant hit single, the album did not rise higher on the chart, until 3 months later. However, with a high profile performance at the MTV Movie Awards and simultaneous cover appearances in Spin and Rolling Stone, the album rose back into the top 10 hitting #6 in June, 2007 and the single “Rehab” began climbing into the pop top 40.