Born on September 14 1983 in the affluent suburb of Southgate, North London, to parents Mitchell and Janis, Amy Jade Winehouse displayed a musical talent from her early years. Her father, Mitchell, was something of a jazz enthusiast and often sang songs to his daughter as she grew up. At 9 years old Winehouse attended the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School with the encouragement of her family, and it was from this experience that she developed a love of jazz,.
After the Earnshaw School, Winehouse attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School in Westminster and the the famous BRIT School, in Selhurst, Croydon. Around this time that she started to write music and her then boyfriend sent a demo of her singing with a jazz band to a music industry talent scout. Simon Fuller’s 19 Management signed her up to a management contract when she was 18, which lead to her eventual signing with Island/Universal. Whilst working with producer Saleem Remi, Winehouse released her jazz-inspired debut album Frank in 2003 to considerable acclaim from critics. Frank was shortlisted for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize and saw Winehouse winning her first Ivor Novello songwriting award for the single ‘Stronger Than Me’.
It was whilst working on the follow-up to Frank in 2005, that Winehouse was focussed on by the popular press, showing increasingly bizarre behaviour and fuelling gossip about substance abuse.
Winehouse’s second album Back to Black, which was co-produced by Remi and Mark Ronson was released in 2006 and was probably her definitive album, earning her five Grammy Awards including ‘Song of the Year’, ‘Best New Artist’ and ‘Record of the Year’. It was the best-selling UK album of 2007, as well as the UK’s third-biggest seller of the decade.
The album demonstrated a complete change from her previous musical style on Frank, in a style reminiscent of the 1950s. Back to Black brought Winehouse three successful singles ‘Rehab’, ‘Back to Black’ and ‘You Know I’m No Good’
It was at this time that Winehouse’s personal troubles started to overtake her music career and, after some heavily criticised performances caused her to cancel the remainder of her tour in August 2007, her record company claimed exhaustion and ill-health as a cause for the cancellations. In 2008 a video clip was put on The Sun website, which looked as if it showed Winehouse smoking crack cocaine. There was a great deal of publicity about this but she was never charged with any offence.
On May 18, 2007 she married Blake Fielder-Civil in Miami, Florida, but Fielder-Civil was claimed to be responsible for Winehouse’s growing substance abuse issues. Later that year they were arrested in Bergen, Norway for drug offences but again they were not charged. When Fielder-Civil was jailed in July 2008 after being found guilty of trying to pervert the course of justice and grievous bodily harm with intent, their marriage was put under intolerable strain. In January 2009 Winehouse confirmed that she had received divorce papers, just a month before Blake was due to be released from prison. Winehouse and Fielder-Civil were officially divorced on August 28, 2009, without Fielder-Civil requesting or receiving any money from her in the divorce settlement.
Following the end of her marriage in 2009 to Fielder-Civil, Winehouse went to the Caribbean to begin work on her third album, but even though there was a great deal of talk about its progress, an official release date for the untitled record was never announced.
Winehouse’s legal difficulties continued throughout 2009 after she was charged with common assault stemming from an incident at the September 2008 Prince’s Trust charity ball. Despite being found not guilty, Winehouse was arrested in December that year again on charges of common assault and was handed a two-year conditional discharge and fine.
Winehouse’s music comeback faced problems in June after a disastrous performance in Belgrade that marked the beginning of her 12-date European tour. The singer’s vocal performance was critically panned and she was eventually booed off-stage after seeming drunk and disorientated by those in attendance. Following the performance, Winehouse pulled out of scheduled concerts in both Istanbul and Athens before cancelling the entire tour. A spokesperson for the singer said she would be given ‘as long as it takes’ for her to get back to her best.
On July 23, aged 27, Amy Winehouse was found dead at her North London home.