Amy Winehouse, the beehived soul-jazz diva whose self-destructive habits overshadowed a distinctive musical talent, was found dead Saturday in her London home, police said. She was 27.
Ms. Winehouse shot to fame in 2006 with the album “Back to Black,” whose blend of jazz, soul, rock and classic pop was a global hit. It won five Grammys and made Winehouse — with her black beehive hairdo and old-fashioned sailor tattoos — one of music's most recognizable stars. But the British star's personal life, with its drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and destructive relationships, soon took over her career.
Police confirmed that a 27-year-old female was pronounced dead at the home in Camden Square northern London; the cause of death was not immediately known. London Ambulance Services said Winehouse had died before the two ambulance crews it sent arrived at the scene.
“Everyone who was involved with Amy is shocked and devastated. Our thoughts are with her family and friends,” said Chris Goodman, a spokesman for her publicity representatives. He said her family will issue a statement when they are ready.
Singer and actress Kelly Osbourne, who helped Winehouse check into a drug addiction treatment facility in 2008, was one of many who grieved for the singer on Twitter.
“I cant even breath right now im crying so hard i just lost 1 of my best friends. i love you forever Amy and will never forget the real you!” she tweeted.
The singer's father, Mitch Winehouse, had arrived in New York this weekend to prepare for his U.S. performing debut Monday night at the Blue Note jazz club, but upon receiving news of his daughter's death was heading back home to London to be with his family, his publicist Don Lucoff said.
An ambulance could be seen parked beneath the trees outside her London home, and the whole street was cordoned off by police tape. Officers kept onlookers away from the scene, though fans began to gather and lay flowers at the edge of the cordon.
Last month, Ms. Winehouse canceled her European comeback tour after she swayed and slurred her way through barely recognizable songs in her first show in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Booed and jeered off stage, she flew home and her management said she would take time off to recover.
Ms. Winehouse was last publicly seen on at a London concert on Wednesday when she joined her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield on stage. In that impromptu appearance, Ms. Winehouse danced with Ms. Bromfield and encouraged the audience to buy her album, before leaving the stage.
“I didn't go out looking to be famous,” Winehouse told the Associated Press when “Back to Black” was released. “I'm just a musician.”
But in the end, the music was overshadowed by fame, and by Ms. Winehouse's demons. Tabloids lapped up the erratic stage appearances, drunken fights, stints in hospital and rehab clinics. Performances became shambling, stumbling train wrecks, watched around the world on the Internet.
Born in 1983 to Mitch Winehouse, taxi driver, and his pharmacist wife Janis, Ms. Winehouse grew up in the north London suburbs, and was set on a showbiz career from an early age. When she was 10, she and a friend formed a rap group, Sweet ‘n' Sour — Winehouse was Sour — that she later described as “the little white Jewish Salt ‘n' Pepa.”
She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, a factory for British music and acting moppets, later went to the Brit School, a performing arts academy in the “Fame” mold, and was originally signed to “Pop Idol” svengali Simon Fuller's 19 Management.
But Ms. Winehouse was never a packaged teen star, and always resisted being pigeonholed.
Her jazz-influenced 2003 debut album, “Frank,” was critically praised and sold well in Britain. It earned Ms. Winehouse an Ivor Novello songwriting award, two Brit nominations and a spot on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize.
But Ms. Winehouse soon expressed dissatisfaction with the disc, saying she was “only 80 percent behind” the album.
“Frank” was followed by a slump during which Winehouse broke up with her boyfriend, suffered a long period of writer's block and, she later said, smoked a lot of marijuana.
“I had writer's block for so long,” she said in 2007. “And as a writer, your self-worth is literally based on the last thing you wrote. .. I used to think, ‘What happened to me?'
“At one point it had been two years since the last record and (the record company) actually said to me, ‘Do you even want to make another record?' I was like, ‘I swear it's coming.’ I said to them, ‘Once I start writing I will write and write and write. But I just have to start it.“’
The album she eventually produced was a sensation.
Released in Britain in the fall of 2006, “Back to Black” brought Ms. Winehouse global fame. Working with producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi and soul-funk group the Dap-Kings, Ms. Winehouse fused soul, jazz, doo-wop and, above all, a love of the girl-groups of the early 1960s with lyrical tales of romantic obsession and emotional excess.
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