Today marks the seventh anniversary of blues singer Amy Winehouse’s death. Famous for her groundbreaking songs of love and heartache, the artist’s legacy is still enduring the test of time.
On July 23rd 2011, Amy Winehouse was found dead in her Camden apartment as a result of alcohol poisoning. She was only 27 years old. Another addition to the eerie 27 club, Winehouse’s sudden death left music lovers grieving the loss of a talent so profoundly real and awe inspiring. The introduction of Winehouse to mainstream music in her short lived but nonetheless extraordinary career left behind a legacy rightly earned.
The world of pop was in a fragile, stale state before Winehouse and her sultry contralto vocals floated their way through radio airwaves. The Grammy award winning artist is single-handedly (in my opinion) responsible for invigorating the smooth sound of jazz and blues for a generation somewhat unfamiliar with the genres. Yes, a sound and attitude foreign to Winehouse’s generation entirely – what she achieved through her absolute love affair with artists like Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin was a complete union of contemporary pop with traditional rhythm and blues.
The gap was impeccably bridged and critically acclaimed. Beautifully sad and melancholy ballads, with a roaring voice to match the jazz greats, exuded tales of longing, grieving and loving. A certain narrative of songwriting once lost, Winehouse expressed the lonely ‘sad girl’ mentality better than any other female artist, reveling in the agony of heartbreak and anguish through the most retro-inspired route. Where most singers were singing on over-coming such experiences, Winehouse used the stinging emotions to produce brutally honest and raw albums, now lengendary and still going strong in the music charts.
Singles like ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Back to Black’ and most famously, ‘Rehab’ cemented Winehouse as one of the most edgy and original voices of the 21st century. Stemming from her seminal albums Frank and Back to Black, critics firmly believed Winehouse was the bad girl of rock for the new age. Listening to songs like ‘You know I’m No Good’, Winehouse had that gift of taking listeners through a sensory journey through song; transporting fans to underground whisky bars, clouded with cigarette smoke, with her jazz band ever-so-coolly playing their instruments on stage. Well, that’s where it takes me anyway.
Marrying style and music, Winehouse stood out as one the last musicians to wholly embody a genre beyond just the music, down to the flick of her blacker-than-black winged liner. Taking inspiration from girl groups of the 1960’s, most notably The Ronnettes, Amy’s devotion to their iconic style and adoption of the immediately-iconic beehive hairdo took her from jazz singer to global sensation. Her elevation to superstar was complete. With this unmistakable, totally distinguishable attire along with her attitude to suit, her image became just as iconic as her soulful songs. It can’t be doubted that the image adds to the overall legacy of an icon, and pop culture has never been the same since the pairing of the that hairdo with that make-up.
In the seven years since that fateful day in Camden, Amy’s legacy lives not only through the music, the image or the various statues in commemoration for the performer – but through the latest string of solo female artists wanting to embrace the more somber side of pop. An icon that many looked up to, Winehouse has been credited with inspiring queens of heartbreak anthems including Adele and Lana Del Rey. Praising Amy’s honesty in creating poetry as well as emerging as a one woman powerhouse, Winehouse evolved into the icon she once looked up to. She paved the way for women in music who were seen as as ‘unconventional’ and would thrive against all odds, just as she did. Countless other musicians have cited Winehouse’s unabashed honesty for being a drive in their creativity, a trait adding to her lasting memory.
The release of the posthumous album Lioness: Hidden Treasures unveiled 12 never before released songs and demos from the late singer. Evoking that signature soul, the album proved to be a nostalgic reminder of a timeless talent. This year, Back to Black has been named as the UK’s best selling album, now reaching over 20 million sales worldwide. Original and edgy, the unforgettable talent of Amy Winehouse doesn’t linger but thrives in 2018. Her other-worldly presence as a singer who was just as charismatic as she was gifted, will always be kept close to music lovers hearts and will continue to be played through speakers.
What was your favourite Amy Winehouse song? Tell us in the comments below.