Soul Train Awards Artist Spotlight: Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse is up for “Best International Performance” for her live rendition of “Our Day Will Come” at the 2012 Soul Train Awards, which will air on BET and Centric on November 25th.  In the run up to the Soul Train Awards, it seems like just the other day the news broke of her passing. Images of crowds of fans, friends and family turned up outside her North London home to pay homage to Amy as well as to support her family.  At the same time, it is a wonderful thing that we are able to look back so fondly and know that even through all of her pain and suffering, Amy Winehouse has blessed us all with the gift of her timeless music. She wasn’t more than just an incredible singer/songwriter. She was also a wife, a daughter, a keen cook, a fan of music and more importantly, a human being. Amy lived the music she recorded, never settling to be a token soul gimmick, but instead remaining a manifestation of her genre. Blues equals heartbreak, pain, gin, accompanied with a faint whimpering in a cigarette-smoke filled room spilling your soul…and great music. Amy gave us all of the above. Her art imitated life.

On July 23rd 2011, the music industry stood still to mourn the death of one of Britain’s most controversial but loved artists. Soul/jazz singer Amy Winehouse sadly passed away at the tender age of 27 in her Camden home. It has already been over a year since this tragic loss, but Amy Winehouse’s spirit is very much alive. The Back To Black star rose to fame in 2003 when her debut studio album, Frank, was released on Island records. The album (which achieved triple platinum status in the UK) cemented Amy as a force to be reckoned with and stayed so until her last days and beyond.  Selling over 20 million albums in Europe alone, her legacy will be forever be engraved in music history.

“Amy changed pop music forever, I remember knowing there was hope, and feeling not alone because of her. She lived jazz, she lived the blues.”Lady Gaga

I personally became a fan of Amy Winehouse the first time I ever heard her song “Stronger Than Me”. There was something about the blaring brass horns, drum-led beat with Amy’s nonchalant charisma and defiant attitude that captured something within my very core. She always struck me as a very strong, independent woman who rejected the unrealistic expectations placed on the modern day woman. Frank came across as a great big middle finger to all of the toxic, demeaning relationships and excruciating heartbreaks, but it was so refreshing. Who needs happily ever after music all of the time? That’s not how the real world works. Although the quality of her work is undisputedly stellar and on the brink of genius, her sound could rarely be described as “glossy.” Amy’s voice held a certain untreated characteristic, which added to the patent sincerity in her artistry.

Amy paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again whilst being fearlessly hilarious and blasé about the whole thing. I don’t think she ever realized just how brilliant she was and how important she is, but that just makes her even more charming.”Adele (Via her website)

Amy was not always in the spotlight for the right reasons. To many, it seemed that Amy’s personal life regularly overshadowed her talents as a musician. She had grace which was minus all of the pomp and ceremony, managing to maintain a relatively modest lifestyle including the inevitable high and lows of being in love, but it is hard to speak about the Winehouse’s beauty without also the mention of her woes, as they are intrinsically linked. Her turbulent and much-heavily-publicized relationship with on-off husband Blake Fielder-Civil saw Amy regularly gracing the front cover of the tabloid newspapers. Their relationship was marred with public displays of violence, substance abuse and court dates. Her battle with crack cocaine and alcohol earned her both harsh criticism and overwhelming sympathy from the general public and family alike. Amy was soon encouraged by her then- management company to check into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic, which inspired one of the most revered tracks of Amy’s career. On October 23rd 2006, Amy released her single “Rehab” about her management company’s attempt to set her on the straight and narrow. The rebellious, anti-self-help anthem was a success both at home and abroad, but further amplified Amy’s denial of her problems. We were forced to sit back and watch the roller coaster that was her life; even in the face of its rather glaringly detrimental and inevitable consequences, her moments of brilliance regenerated a sense of hope and belief in the possibility of her feeing herself of her demons.

“I’m of the school of thought where, if you can’t sort something out for yourself, no one can help you. Rehab is great for some people but not others.” Amy Winehouse 

Amy’s catalogue is not a showcase of the industry’s elite crammed onto a special edition box collection. She could never be accused of over-saturation or of “diluting her brand.” Her working  partnerships were always very carefully selected and executed. Amy collaborated with Salaam Remi, Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Tony Bennett, Jay-Z, and very few others during her eight years in the spotlight.  Admired and respected by many celebrities, Winehouse was never a slave to the stardom and held on tightly to her roguish attributes. Amy’s success rests firmly on her shoulders and through her own merits. Since the beginning of her career in 2003, Amy Winehouse has received 61 nominations and won 23 awards in total (thus far), stretching right across the board including MTV Awards, NME, BRIT Awards, as well as an notable six Grammy Awards.

Rest In Peace, Amy.

“She could charm you into doing ridiculous things. There are people on this earth (they certainly don’t have to be famous) and they’re just a bit more magical than the rest of us. And you want to be around them because the magic rubs off a bit, and you feel a bit more special when they’re around. My best friend, Max, died about five years ago. And he had that same effect on people. Maybe the magical ones burn a bit brighter than the rest of us, so they don’t get to be here as long. Either way, it sucks when they go.” Mark Ronson (The Guardian)

–Ayara Pommells

Ayara Pommells is Owner of UK website Rawroots.com and a music writer for Soultrain.com, stupidDOPE.comBadperm.com & Earmilk.com. Ayara also handles PR for several artists and is the Co- Founder of the #Lipgloss&Sneakers – Women In Hip Hop Movement. Follow @iAmaButtafly.

 

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