Jewish Singer, Amy Winehouse, is Born, 1983
On This Day in jewish History: September 14, 1983
Grammy winning vocalist, Amy Winehouse, was born on September 14, 1983 in London. Born to a Jewish family, Winehouse grew up with a strong culturally Jewish identity, adhering to traditions by celebrating holidays and having Shabbat dinner with family. Winehouse, originally spelled Wienhause, was primarily raised by her mother, a pharmacist, after she divorced her father, a taxi driver, when Amy was 9 years old.
Growing up, Amy would often sing duets with her father and brother and she considered her paternal grandmother, Cynthia, as her inspiration for her fashion sense and passion for jazz. From 13-15 Amy attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, however, she was reportedly expelled for wearing a forbidden nose ring. She then attended the prestigious BRIT School and by 16, Amy was performing with jazz groups when a classmate passed along her demo tape to a record label.
Winehouse’s debut album, “Frank” (2003), displayed her immense lyrical abilities alongside her smoky, jazz vocals, drawing comparisons between her and rhythm and blues legends such as Billie Holiday. Winehouse followed it up with her sophomore album “Back to Black” in 2006 which drew worldwide acclaim. With its 1960s/1970s Motown soul, “Back to Black” entered the US charts at number 7, the highest debut ever for a British woman. The album became a top 10 hit in the UK, earning Winehouse an Ivor Novello Award for best contemporary song, and by the end of summer 2006, “Back to Black” had sold 1 million copies.
Winehouse, known for her beehive-styled jet black hair and Cleopatra style eye makeup, struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. In the wake of a video supposedly displaying Winehouse using hard drugs, it became increasingly difficult for her to obtain a visa to enter the US. Thus, she was unable to appear at the 2008 Grammy Awards in person. However, a special satellite performance was arranged in London. At the awards that night, Winehouse was honored with 5 awards including best song and best recording for “Rehab.”
With her drug and alcohol abuse increasing, the musical abilities began shift to the sidelines. In 2011, Winehouse attempted to do a comeback tour, but it was cancelled shortly thereafter when she appeared at the opening night seemingly intoxicated. The following month, Winehouse passed away from alcohol poisoning. She was 27.
Winehouse’s legacy continued after she passed away. Her duet with Tony Bennett, “Body and Soul” was released in 2011. It subsequently won a Grammy for best performance by a duo or group. Later on in the year, “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” a collection of unreleased original songs, covers and demos was released. Most recently, in 2015, the documentary “Amy,” which chronicled her career, won the Academy Award for best documentary. Winehouse’s sultry vocals and deeply personal lyrics remain as a reminder of her talent and soul, inspiring the future generation of vocalists. May her memory be a blessing.