For singer Winehouse, 'Rehab' came too late

23rd July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Her very public battles with her demons spawned her signature tune "Rehab", but British soul singer Amy Winehouse's self-destructive lifestyle finally caught up with her.

The 27-year-old singer, who was found dead at her north London flat on Saturday, will be remembered as a wildly talented musical star whose addiction to drink and drugs proved too much.

She seemingly headlined newspapers more often than concerts, most recently in June when she was booed at an open-air concert in Serbia as she appeared to be too drunk to sing at the start of a comeback tour.

Winehouse had reportedly ended an alcohol rehabilitation programme in London two weeks earlier and local media reported that alcohol had been banned for the tour.

Born on September 14, 1983 to a north London Jewish family, Winehouse grew up in a jazz-loving household -- her taxi driver father Mitch is an aficionado, while uncles on her mother Janis's side were professional musicians.

Aged 12, she created a rap duo with a friend, and a year later, she received her first guitar and began singing soul music.

She cited black American female singers like Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington as influences, as well as Elvis Presley.

Winehouse attended the BRIT School in Croydon, south London, which excels in the performing arts and has produced music stars such as Katie Melua, Adele, Dane Bowers, Kate Nash, Leona Lewis and The Feeling.

In an interview for a tour DVD, Winehouse described herself as "insecure", giving a possible reason for her excessive behaviour.

She bared her soul in two albums -- "Frank" in 2003 and "Back to Black" in 2006 -- and impressed critics with her powerful, smoky voice and wide-ranging repetoire taking in everything from rap to Motown.

Her distinctive jet-black beehive hairstyle, thick make-up around her eyes, and the myriad tattoos on her skinny frame ensured that she stood out from the crowd for her appearance as well as her talent.

"Back to Black" was Britain's best-selling album of 2007, and was named best pop vocal album at the 2008 Grammys.

Unfortunately, her hit single "Rehab", which won three gongs by itself at the Grammys, became a symbol for her off-stage life.

She has fought alcohol, drugs, self-harm and eating disorders, all in the public eye.

Her relationship with her former husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, was further fuel for the tabloid newspapers.

They married in Miami in May 2007 but had a tempestuous relationship. He spent part of their marriage behind bars for a vicious attack on a pub landlord and a subsequent attempt to cover it up. They divorced in July 2009.

In December 2007, she was photographed wandering London's streets barefoot and in her bra in the early hours of the morning.

In early 2008 she spent another stint at a rehabilitation clinic to overcome drug addiction, having been caught on video apparently smoking crack cocaine a month earlier, which led to her being questioned by police.

She emerged to perform at that year's Grammy awards, but despite scooping five victories at the awards, she had to submit her set via video-link because the United States initially refused to give her a visa.

That year her own father Mitch predicted she could die "a very slow and painful death" if she did not right her course.

Despite a stint in the Carribbean trying to live a healthier lifestyle, the chaos continued, and in 2010 she pleaded guilty to assaulting a theatre manager at a Christmas pantomime starring Mickey Rooney.

She promised to come up with her long-awaited third album in 2011 after finding love with a new boyfriend, horror film director Reg Traviss.

On Saturday she was found dead at her flat in the trendy north London district of Camden, the scene of both her rise to fame and of many of her later public meltdowns.

Music historians will note that has now become part of the tragic "27 club" of musicians who have died at that age -- a roster that includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors singer Jim Morrison and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.

Mark Ronson, the disc jockey who produced more than half of the songs on "Black to Black", once said Winehouse was a refreshing antidote to bland pop.

"Amy is bringing a rebellious rock and roll spirit back to popular music," he said.

That rebellious spirit, however, was what finally caught up with her.

© 2011 AFP

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