Born September 14, 1983, Amy Winehouse was one of the most remarkable artists of her generation. With her powerful, petulant vocals and agile ease in shifting from pop to jazz to soul and R&B, she clearly demonstrated an ability to transcend any particular genre and stake her claim as a singer for the ages.
Likewise, her trademark beehive hairdo and tempestuous attitude made her a tabloid personality to contend with. Not surprisingly then, her debut album Frank and its 2006 follow-up, Back to Black, made her a worldwide sensation, garnering her a prestigious Mercury Prize nomination, five Grammys (the first for a British female and a record number for a single night's wins), an award for Best British Female Artist and three Ivor Novello awards as well. No wonder she was posthumously listed at number 26 on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Women in Music.
Sadly, Winehouse's penchant for excess and unpredictable behavior led to her tragic passing on July 23, 2011 at the age of 27. This cast a shadow over her achievements and served as a reminder that for all her talent, she was a human being.
Nevertheless, here're some of the things Amy accomplished for which she will and should be remembered.
With her extensive beehive hairdo, Capri pants and striking make-up, Winehouse's image was a throwback to the girl groups of the early '60s. According to Wikipedia, when Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes first saw her photo, she thought it was a vintage picture of her. "But then I found out... it's Amy!" she exclaimed. "I didn't have on my glasses."
Winehouse embodied the spirit of numerous iconic women who came before -- from the lusty delivery of Billie Holiday to the steadfast attitude of Aretha Franklin through to formidable impression cast by Mary J. Blige. And yet, she established herself as an individual force to be reckoned with. A 2009 poll concluded that one-fifth of those queried had heard her music the previous year. Likewise, as of August 2011, her album Back to Black had become the best-selling album in her native U.K. so far in the 21st century.
Winehouse carved such an emphatic impression that by her mid 20s, she was already seen as an artist that held a special stature. Tony Bennett, with whom she made her final recording during the sessions for his album Duets II, said of her after her death, "It was such a sad thing because... she was the only singer that really sang what I call the 'right way' because she was a great jazz-pop singer... a really great jazz singer. A true jazz singer."
Credit Amy Winehouse with launching a succeeding wave of singular female singers, among them, Adele, Duffy, LaRoux, and Florence of the Machine. Spin magazine even referred to her as "the Nirvana moment for all these women." Billboard cited her by saying her successors "can all be traced back to her in terms of attitude, musical styles or fashion." Even Jay-Z chimed in, claiming, "I think this resurgence was ushered in by Amy."
Despite her unrepentant attitude and contentious demeanor, Winehouse was a generous individual, so much so that she was once named the "most charitable act" by one prominent music magazine. Among those groups she supported was Adopt a Minefield, Anti-Slavery International, Breast Cancer Campaign, CARE, the Children's Research Institute, Oxfam, Comic Relief, Teenage Cancer Trust, St. Jude Children's Hospital, the Red Cross, Save the Children, and UNICEF.
That level of giving, compassion, and talent trumps any bad behavior and serves as a lasting legacy in itself.
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