Amy Winehouse’s death was expected by her family

Amy Winehouse’s family speaks out

Parents, Public Braced for Amy Winehouse’s Death Through Five-Year Fade

Posted Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:13pm PDT by Chris Willman

To Amy Winehouse’s family, the singer/songwriter’s death was not unexpected. It was “only a matter of time,” her mother, Janis Winehouse, was quoted as saying in the Sunday Mirror. She’d visited her daughter the day before she died, and said, “She seemed out of it. But her passing still hasn’t hit me.”

She said their final encounter had ended with the weakened Amy saying “I love you, mum.” “Those are the words I will always treasure,” Janis said. “I’m glad I saw her when I did.”

Father Mitch Winehouse had been in New York preparing to do a series of showcases for his new jazz album. He canceled the shows and was seen at JFK a few hours after the news hit. “I’m completely devastated,” he was reported as saying. “I’m coming home. I have to be with Amy. I can’t crack up, for her sake. My family needs me.”  

Mitch Winehouse had been vocal in the past—too vocal, for Amy’s tastes—about his daughter’s substance abuse. As far back as three years ago, he was raising the specter of her possible demise when he publicly revealed that she was suffering from emphysema. “Doctors have told her if she goes back to smoking drugs, it won’t just ruin her voice, it will kill her,” he was quoted as saying in 2008, while issuing an ultimatum to drug dealers to stay away.

If the family had clearly braced themselves for this news at various points over the years, so had the public, which had grown nearly inured to tales of the singer’s inebriated escapades and false promises of new output. 

With Amy Winehouse, sadly, drug counselors finally have the all-or-nothing case study in creative stifling they need.

It never helped their cause that other famous members of the so-called “27 Club” who’d also died at age 27—including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin—had managed to record great music right up until their deaths. These legends’ romanticized swan songs helped foster the belief among some drug users that, even if the grim reaper looms, artistic genius can coexist with or even be aided by addiction.

But the five fallow years that have passed since Winehouse released her second and final album, the Grammys-sweeping Back to Black, tell a very different cautionary tale about promises unfulfilled. There’s no reason to expect the kind of posthumous releases that followed the deaths of figures like Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur. It’s not at all clear Winehouse managed to record anything more than a few cover songs in the half-decade that passed since she released one of the most triumphant recordings of the 21st century.

The only confirmed recording Winehouse has in the can is a duet with Tony Bennett of the standard “Body and Soul,” set for hisDuets II album, which will be out Sept. 20. Winehouse was said to have been cheeky but capable when she joined the 84-year-old Bennett at London’s Abbey Road studio March 23, calling the experience “a story to tell my grandchildren to tell their grandchildren to tell their grandchildren,” according to a reporter from the Telegraph who attended the session.

But unless the recording sessions were an incredibly well-kept secret, there’s no album no. 3 in the vault. Answering fan queries online, she always had an answer ready when the inevitable questions would come about when we should expect the next album: “Soon!” Writing on her Formspring web page last summer, she told fans, “Aww, my album is coming. I can’t wait”—followed eight months ago by the tease, “Do you want to know my first song from my new album?” She never did use that forum to name the promised song, or even mention the supposed album-in-progress again.

Last year, there was conjecture of a project with the Roots’ Questlove. On March 1, 2010, she tweeted, “Me an Quest, sittin in a tree, makin a s-up-er group.” Little was heard about this highly anticipated hookup again.

Her professional relationship with producer Mark Ronson, who was responsible for much of Back to Black, had definitely been on-again, off-again in the intervening years. Famously, in early 2008, Ronson abandoned sessions that were intended to produce a possible theme song for the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, diplomatically saying, “We tried to work for a little bit. I’m not sure she’s ready to work on music yet.”

In July of 2010, she appeared as a surprise guest at a club gig by Ronson, singing her B-side, “Valerie,” though she failed to remember all the lyrics. Things between the two seemed to take a bad turn last September, when she tweeted some invective aimed at her producer:“Ronson you’re dead to me; one album I write an you take half the credit- make a career out of it? Don’t think so BRUV.” But three days later, she attempted to make up with him online, writing, “Ronson I love you; that make it better? You know I love you- it’s a jew thing…”

More recently, Winehouse and Ronson collaborated on the last recording released during her lifetime, a cover of Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” for a star-studded Quincy Jones tribute album. Her vocal was widely panned, with fans and critics wondering what the unedited tapes sounded like, if that was the best performance Ronson could patch together with the help of editing tools.

Winehouse’s last appearance on stage was just three days before her death-a non-singing cameo at a show by her beloved goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield, at the iTunes Festival in London. Her final actual gig had been a disastrous June 18 tour kickoff in Serbia, the booing of which was seen and mocked around the world on YouTube. Three days later, the cancellation of the rest of the tour was announced.

The day after the Serbian disaster, her father, Mitch Winehouse, who had been candid about the extent of his daughter’s troubles, tweeted, “Amy was advised by me and her manager not to do gigs. These were contracted months ago when she was well.” Two days later, he added, “By the way, Amy is not retiring. She is going to get some r and r and come back better than ever.”

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