Monday, July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse RIP

While the recent terrorist attack in Olso is a far more important issue, this is a music blog. The big news in music is the recent passing of Amy Winehouse.

I remember the first time I heard her music.  It was February 2007 and I was on my back to the office from either Brampton court. I had taken the GO bus to Yorkdale and stopped off at the HMV to browse.  Shortly after I arrived, I heard a unique song on the PA.  Blending hip-hop beats, Memphis soul & a whisky soaked voice wrapped around candid lyrics from a bad girl, my jaw dropped when I heard it. When I asked the front clerk what was playing, the answer was Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good?” from the recently released Back to Black.

I bought the album immediately and was soon obsessed with it. From opening track “Rehab” to the closing notes of “He Can Only Hold Her” Back to Black was a revelation. Not only was this album my introduction to Amy but it also made me aware of producers Mark Ronson & Salaam Remi and her backup band for the album, The Dap Kings.  From there it was a short jump to discovering Sharon Jones, the Budos Band and the rest of the Daptone Records stable.

As Amy became more popular it was interesting to see how much Hip-Hop artists were taking to her music. Ghostface Killah did a remix of “You Know I’m No Good” which was added to the US version of Back to Black.  Jay Z and Pharoahe Monch did remixes of “Rehab”. My favourite was always Pharoahe Monch’s, but if, as seems likely, Amy did die of a drug overdose, this version has now lost any humour it had. 

Back to Black was influenced by 60’s girl groups. In particular The Shirelles, who pushed the boundaries with songs about sex, such as “Tonight’s the Night” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”  Fittingly, Amy covered “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” for a Bridget Jones Soundtrack.

Shortly after buying Back to Black, I got her first album Frank.  This album has more of a Jazz influence than Back to Black.  Starting with the lead off track “Stronger Than Me”: 

One of my favourite tracks is “In My Bed” which uses the same beat as Nas’ “Made You Look”.  (Both Nas and producer Salaam Remi are credited songwriters for the track.)

After Back to Black, her main release was a track on Mark Ronson’s album Version with cover of The Vuton’s song “Valerie”.  This is one of my favourite performances of hers.

Amy Winehouse was an extremely talented artist.  She, along with Lily Allen was largely responsible for the interest in English singers like Estelle, Kate Nash, Duffy and Adele.  However, she had a number of issues stemming from addiction.  Now that she is gone, I hope she attains the peace she did not get when she was alive.


  1. If you want good, real soul, try out Sharon Jones. She's soul baby, not like them white chicks who are sanitized, Elvis Presly black-music stealing types...

  2. Thanks for the comment Anonymous. I am, in fact, a huge fan of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings along with other artists like Otis Redding & Elvis Presley. As I say in the article, it was Amy Winehouse that led me to Sharon Jones and Daptone Records.

    Although it's easy to compare Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones (given that they shared The Dap Kings) ultimately there are different influences at play. Particularly on Back to Black Amy's influence was Girl Groups like The Shirelles. A genre which predates Memphis Soul and had more of a pop influence than other forms of R&B. Comparing Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones says more to me about how versatile the Dap Kings are than anything else.

    Thanks again for reading the blog and commenting. I appreciate the feedback.