LONDON – British retro-soul singer Amy Jade Winehouse, who was found dead Saturday in her London apartment, had a penchant for living recklessly – she battled alcoholism and drug addiction, both of which often threatened to derail her career and usually eclipsed her talent. Winehouse was 27.
Winehouse provided much fodder for the British tabloids with her self-destructive behavior, but she was one of the most talented stars of the music world.
As news of her death spread, immediate comparisons were being drawn to doomed “27 Club” pop stars.
These included Rolling Stone Brian Jones, who drowned in a swimming pool in 1969; guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who choked to death in 1970 after mixing wine with sleeping pills; singer Janis Joplin, who suffered a suspected heroin overdose the same year; Doors star Jim Morrison, who died of heart failure in 1971; Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who shot himself in 1994 – all of whom struggled with their fame and also died at the age of 27, the Press Association reported.
The singer, known for her trademark beehive hairdo and sailor tattoos, had canceled all her tour dates and engagements in June after a series of erratic public appearances.
After several months of rehabilitation treatment for drug and alcohol abuse in London, Winehouse returned to the European performance stage that month, but the tour kickoff turned into disaster when she appeared drunk on stage and was booed by a crowd of 20,000 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Winehouse’s music often focused on drinking, drugs and infidelity. Her hit song, “Rehab,” echoed her own life and turmoil through its lyrics: “They tried to make me go to rehab; I said no, no, no.” The song is about her refusal to seek help at an alcohol rehab clinic.
In 2008, Winehouse dominated the Grammy Awards, but acknowledged her problems with an ironic performance of her hit single “Rehab.”
She won five of the most prestigious prizes in the U.S. music world that year, including record and song of the year for “Rehab.” But she was forced to deliver her rejection of rehab treatment by satellite after her visa application was delayed because of her widely documented drug problems.
Winehouse also picked up best new artist, best pop vocal album for “Back To Black” – which propelled her into superstardom – and best female pop vocal, and dedicated her triumph to her imprisoned husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.
Despite her wild girl image, Winehouse came from a stage school background. She was born on Sept. 14, 1983, and grew up in a Jewish household in north London, brought up with a love for jazz.
Keen on a music career after leaving school, she performed in pubs while working as a journalist for a news agency focused on show business, the Press Association reported.
She was discovered while performing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and signed to a division of 19 Management, the media empire of Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller.
In July 2008, a strikingly “real” waxwork model of Winehouse was unveiled at Madame Tussaud’s in London.
The figure captured her frozen in full song and with “Blake’s pocket” above her left breast – a reference to her then-husband Fielder-Civil, who was in jail for assaulting a pub owner and plotting to escape trial by seeking to bribe witnesses.
In July 2009, Winehouse and Fielder-Civil were granted a fast-track divorce by the London High Court. They were married in Miami in May 2007. Media reports portrayed the marriage as a relationship that centered around drugs, alcohol and separation.