“Back to Black” was released in the United States in March 2007 and went on to win five Grammy awards, including song and record of the year for “Rehab.”
Music critic John Aizlewood attributed her trans-Atlantic success to a fantastic voice and a genuinely original sound.
“A lot of British bands fail in America because they give America something Americans do better — that's why most British hip-hop has failed,” he said. “But they won't have come across anything quite like Amy Winehouse.”
Ms. Winehouse's rise was helped by her distinctive look — messy beehive of hair, thickly lined cat eyes, girly tattoos — and her tart tongue.
She was famously blunt in her assessment of her peers, once describing Dido's sound as “background music — the background to death” and saying of pop princess Kylie Minogue, “she's not an artist ... she's a pony.”
The songs on “Black to Black” detailed breakups and breakdowns with a similar frankness. Lyrically, as in life, Winehouse wore her heart on her sleeve.
“I listen to a lot of ‘60s music, but society is different now,” Ms. Winehouse said in 2007. “I'm a young woman and I'm going to write about what I know.”
Even then, Ms. Winehouse's performances were sometimes shambolic, and she admitted she is “a terrible drunk.” She acknowledged struggling with eating disorders and told a newspaper that she had been diagnosed as manic depressive but refused to take medication. Soon accounts of her erratic behavior, canceled concerts and drink- and drug-fueled nights began to multiply.
Photographs caught her unsteady on her feet or vacant-eyed, and she appeared unhealthily thin, with scabs on her face and marks on her arms.
There were embarrassing videos released to the world on the Internet. One showed an addled Winehouse and Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty playing with newborn mice. Another, for which Ms. Winehouse apologized, showed her singing a racist ditty to the tune of a children's song.
Ms. Winehouse's managers went to increasingly desperate lengths to keep the wayward star on the straight and narrow. Before the June concert in Belgrade, her hotel was reportedly stripped of booze — but it did no good, and the concert was painful to watch.
Though she was often reported to be working on new material, fans got tired of waiting for the much-promised followup to “Back to Black.”
Occasional bits of recording saw the light of day. Her rendition of The Zutons' “Valerie” was a highlight of producer Mark Ronson's 2007 album “Version,” and she recorded the pop classic “It's My Party” for the 2010 Quincy Jones album “Q: Soul Bossa Nostra.”
But other recording projects with Mr. Ronson, one of the architects of the success of “Back to Black,” came to nothing.
She also had run-ins with the law. In April 2008, Winehouse was cautioned by police for assault after she slapped a man during a raucous night out. The same year she was investigated by police, although not charged, after a tabloid newspaper published a video that appeared to show her smoking crack cocaine.
In 2010, Ms. Winehouse pleaded guilty to assaulting a theater manager who asked her to leave a family Christmas show because she'd had too much to drink. She was given a fine and a warning to stay out of trouble by a judge who praised her for trying to clean up her act.
In May 2007 in Miami, she married music industry hanger-on Blake Fielder-Civil, but the honeymoon was brief. That November, Fielder-Civil was arrested for an attack on a pub manager the year before. Fielder-Civil later pleaded guilty to assaulting barman James King and then offering him $400,000 (U.S.) to keep quiet about it.
Ms. Winehouse stood by “my Blake” throughout his trial, often blowing kisses at him from the court's public gallery and wearing a heart-shaped pin labeled “Blake” in her hair at concerts. But British newspapers reported extramarital affairs while Fielder-Civil was behind bars.
They divorced in 2009.
Ms. Winehouse's health often appeared fragile. In June 2008 and again in April 2010, she was taken to hospital and treated for injuries after fainting and falling at home.
Her father said she had developed the lung disease emphysema from smoking cigarettes and crack, although her spokeswoman later said Winehouse only had “early signs of what could lead to emphysema.”
She left the hospital to perform at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday concert in Hyde Park in June 2008, and at the Glastonbury festival the next day, where she received a rousing reception but scuffled with a member of the crowd. Then it was back to a London clinic for treatment, continuing the cycle of music, excess and recuperation that marked her career.
“I was just doing one destructive thing after the other, I suppose. Or, having a good time,” she once said in a television interview. “Today's papers are just tomorrow's fish and chips paper so it doesn't bother me.”
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