Talented and rebellious, Amy Jade Winehouse favored the Tattooed-Beehived-Rockabilly-Cleopatra-1960s girl group look as she grew in her career. Her first album, “Frank,” was released in October 2003 to positive reviews. Her first single, “Stronger Than Me,” helped earn her an Ivor Novello Award.
Her now legendary second album, released in October 2006, was “Back to Black.” She received five Grammys including Best New Artist, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. It sold more than any other album worldwide in 2007. It was the third largest selling album of the 2000s in the UK.
Toward the end of her life on July 23, 2011, her music took second place to her rebellious personal life. Problems with alcohol, substance abuse, temper, violence and self-damaging behavior were recurrently reported in various media. The growing news of her decline activated a destruction that began to overshadow her once-rising contributions in music.
In descending order, following are the 10 best Amy Winehouse songs of all time. How does this compare with your favorites list?
The pain after boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil left her for his ex-girlfriend was fruitful for Winehouse. Many of her “Back to Black” album songs were written because of this breakup.
“I'm not frightened of appearing vulnerable,” she explained to Mojo magazine in 2008. “I write songs about stuff that I can't really get past emotionally-and then I feel better."
Plan and simple, Winehouse idolized the '60s girl group, The Shirelles. This song made them the first all-female group in history to reach the #1 spot in the U.S. It was proclaimed the best song of 1960 by Acclaimed Music and rated #126 in Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote it.
8. “Body and Soul” (with Tony Bennett)
The last recording Winehouse ever made was with Tony Bennett. They sang “Body and Soul” for his Duets II album and the single was released on the date of what would have been her 28th birthday, the following Sept. 14 after her death. It won the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance in February 2012.
During the recording of the music video, Winehouse appeared healthy. Bennett said what he “didn't even know it when we were making the record, and now looking at the whole thing; she knew that she was in a lot of trouble; that she wasn't going to live.”
“And it wasn't drugs,” Bennett told Jon Stewart on his The Daily Show of Sept. 29, 2011. “It was alcohol toward the end. . . . 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. . . . She was really a great jazz singer. A true jazz singer. And I regret that because that's the 'right way' to sing.”
This was the song from her first album that sold over one million copies just in the United Kingdom. Winehouse was nominated for Top Female Solo Singer at the Brit Awards. Winehouse and producer Salaam Remi co-wrote the song about having a relationship with a man seven years older. His less than manly behavior prompts her to rethink her opinion of him to the point that she asks the “lady boy” “are you gay?”
Winehouse was all alone and distraught after boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil left her to go back to his previous girlfriend. During a 2007 concert, Winehouse introduced the song by telling the crowd that “this song's about when you're in a relationship and you know it's going to end, and you know you're going to be upset, but you know that you have to do it."
Shortly, after the concert, Fielder-Civil returned to Amy and they were married in May 2007.
This song was a cover of the original single by The Zutons, a Liverpool band. Winehouse and Mark Ronson (see #1 below) turned it into their single and she recorded it several more times before her death.
The song was written by Dave McCabe, lead singer of The Zutons, in “about 20 minutes. It’s about a friend of mine from America who experienced hard times after being arrested for drunk driving.”
Winehouse often listened to her favorite music, the Soul sounds of the 1960s and '70s. She particularly loved the girl groups like the Ronettes, Supremes, Crystals, and the Chiffons. Unconfirmed stories indicate “Me and Mrs. Jones,” the 1972 classic by Billy Paul was the inspiration for “Me and Mr. Jones.”
Roger Moore, the former James Bond British actor, was referenced in the lyrics: "By the time I'm out the door you tear men down like Roger Moore." Moore remarked that he didn’t have the slightest idea why Winehouse chose to include him in the song, lest she desired a word that rhymed with "door," or could not think of a word that rhymed with "Connery."
"Back to Black is when you've finished a relationship and you go back to what's comfortable for you,” Winehouse told the Sun newspaper. “My ex (boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil, who she later married) went back to his girlfriend and I went back to drinking and dark times."
Winehouse became the highest debuting British female artist in US history when “Back to Black” actually entered the Billboard Hot 100 album chart at #7. The album eventually became the all-time top selling album for Amazon.com.
Winehouse was walking with music collaborator and her album producer Mark Ronson in London when she “just sang the hook out loud,” she recalled. “It was quite silly really."
She even sang the “no, no, no” part, “the whole line exactly as it turned out on the record! Mark laughed and asked me who wrote it because he liked it,” she stated to the Daily News in 2007. “I told him that I'd just made it up but that it was true and he encouraged me to turn it into a song, which took me five minutes.”
Winehouse, who admitted it was about her former management company that wanted to send her to rehabilitation, thought it was about the easiest song to write. Eventually, she did go to rehab treatment for alcohol and drugs, but it was futile.