Is it already a year since the music world lost Amy Winehouse?
The singer’s death still feels incredibly close twelve months on, perhaps due to the amount of feelings of tragedy and grief that still linger around the star.
While the tabloids and gossip mags continue to mine Winehouse’s well-publicised private life and problems for stories though, her music shines on as the singer’s defining legacy for her fans and music lovers alike.
Here are eight ways to remember Amy Winehouse beyond the headlines.
1. Her music
Be it the jazz inspired sounds of her debut album Frank to the soulful Back to Black, Winehouse’s music was always the driving force behind her fame and success.
It wasn’t just her voice that powered her to the top either. As a songwriter she penned most of her own material, including the majority of her two albums, including the much-loved hit singles Rehab, Back to Black and Love Is A Losing Game.
A year on from her death and Winehouse’s music continues to resonate with people around the world. Her music will
2. Prodigious performer
Amy Winehouse was a singer who could deliver when it mattered most. Her voice and natural musicality would later allow her to dominate live performances by shuffling her vocal arrangements on the fly and improvising to the delight of audiences around the world.
An early example of her gift for performing is offered in Tim Jonze’s anniversary piece for The Guardian, quoting Bill Ashton of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra:
“In June 2000, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra staged a show at Rayner’s Hotel in west London. Their singer dropped out at the last minute; Winehouse didn’t know the songs, but wasn’t fazed when Ashton called her. “She just said: ‘Don’t worry, I’ll learn them on the train.’ So between her stop in north London [Southgate] and Rayner’s Lane, she learned all four songs on her Discman, and she sang them brilliantly. To do that is extraordinarily rare”
3. Effortless ability
Listen to Winehouse’s vocals, live and on record, and the sheer intensity of expression she could muster is impressive. Her abrasive and raw tone though belied a singer who was technically excellent, with a natural and total control of her voice and an awareness of how far she could push her vocals.
Her tone has been called unique and original many music writer and journalists, and while critics are never too shy of hyperbole, Winehouse’s voice certainly had a distinct flavour that has become an imitable sound for new and establish singers alike.
It was never just the timbre of her voice that made it what it was, but Winehouse’s smooth and loose sense of rhythm, groove and feel that made her vocals sound so effortlessly alive and immediate, whether she was singing her own music or reworking a favourite standard.
4. An authentic artist
Fearless is often used to describe Amy Winehouse and her music. Her unflinchingly direct, and at times almost confrontational, approach to her songs gave Winehouse a real sense of attitude that for some didn’t feel like some marketing concept dreamed up to give her some sort of edge.
Although her image outside of music did undoubtedly feed into her public persona, for many of her fans it only added to the tragic integrity and soul of her music. For them, she sung from a place of pain that imbued each song with a sense of vulnerability that could not be faked or learned.
Adele cites Amy Winehouse’s successes in the USA as vital to her own musical domination of the states, and some industry analysts have argued that the Back to Black singer paved the way for the latest wave of British female artists with authority over their own creative control and artistic vision both at home and abroad.
5. As at home in the studio as on stage
While recorded vocal takes can strip much of the magic away from singers who rely on their flair for improvisation to shine, Amy Winehouse adapted her lines for the studio just as she would riff on arrangements live when on-stage.
Rather than losing the emotion and expression from her performances, Winehouse was able to communicate the true meaning of her words in the more standardised atmosphere of the record studio.
6. Amazing ears
Like many great singers, Amy Winehouse had great ears, which were brought up a diet of classic jazz, R&B and soul music that would inform and inspire her writing and singing.
Winehouse said she much of her jazz education came from listening to the likes of Thelonius Monk and other instrumentalists which helped her to develop her ears and musical imagination.
Another anecdote from her time at NYJO features a 16-year-old Amy Winehouse sitting at the back of a class smoking having seemingly removed herself from the group session.
However, as soon as she was required to perform, according to singing coach, Annabel Williams, “she just got up and nailed it first time. Just from listening to the others do it.”
7. Making jazz more accessible
Although some jazz aficionados may wince at the heading, Amy Winehouse has become something of a gateway artist for music listeners still developing a deeper awareness of genres and artists.
Through her covers of famous standards and tunes by musicians such as Tony Bennet, Marvin Gaye and Toots & The Maytals, Winehouse brought classic songs back into the mainstream, introducing them to a whole new generation.
According to Raphael Saadiq and John Legend, her music has “reacquainted an audience with this music and played an introductory role for others. This reinvigorated the genre by overcoming the vintage aspect”
8. Her collaborators
Speaking of Tony Bennet, the veteran crooner also duetted with Winehouse on a version of the track Body & Soul, which was later released on the posthumous album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures. She also appeared on stage with The Rolling Stones, Jools Holland, Paul Weller and many more respected acts and artists.
Regardless of all the tabloid stories and gossip, Amy Winehouse was widely respected by her fellow musicians for her talent. Speaking last week, Elton John described her passing as “a great tragedy”.
A year on, what are your thoughts and memories of Amy Winehouse and her music?
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