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Amy Winehouse Biography: Career of 'Rehab' Singer

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born September 14th, 1983 in Southgate, London, England, Amy Winehouse followed in the footsteps of her jazz-loving family and started singing young. Varied influences like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Salt-N-Pepa and The Ronettes came together to make her signature sound and style, and pretty soon she was fighting off record labels. Her debut record, "Frank," was a success, but it was her sophomore record "Back to Black" that won her fans around the world. Unfortunately, the strength of addiction was too much for this singer: after years of spiraling downward, she was found dead in her home due to alcohol poisoning on July 23rd, 2011. In this video, learns more about the life and career of Amy Winehouse.

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Biography of Amy Winehouse

Her jazzy vocals and brash, introspective lyrics made her a star. Welcome to, and today we’ll be learning more about the life and career of Amy Winehouse.

Early Years

Amy Jade Winehouse was born September 14th, 1983 in Southgate, London, England to Jewish parents. Winehouse came from a long tradition of jazz singers and enthusiasts, so it was no surprise when she took up music.


After beginning formal training, she received her first guitar and joined several bands. By age 13, she was writing her own music modeled after influences like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Her classmate, singer Tyler James, soon introduced her to the industry, and labels began battling over this authentic songstress.


Winehouse mimicked the wild style of hip hop and R&B acts like TLC and Salt-n-Pepa, and gushed profanity-laced, sometimes humorous lyrics in her trademark cockney twang to emphasize it. That, combined with the girl group groove of 1960s’ bands like The Ronettes, created her signature style and sound. In fact, the bouffant beehive and exaggerated winged eyeliner became signatures.

Debut Album

After being kept an industry secret, Winehouse released her jazz tinged debut record, “Frank” in 2003. The effort’s pop, soul and hip hop vibe was felt on singles like “Take the Box.” Positive reviews and sales eventually helped the album go triple platinum, and earned her several award nominations. The song “Stronger Than Me” even won her the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song.

Early Struggles with Addiction

However, even this early in her career, Winehouse began struggling with alcohol and eating disorders. She was often seen at clubs, or arriving to gigs drunk. She also began a tempestuous on-again-off-again relationship with video production assistant Blake Fielder-Civil, who introduced her to more serious addictions like hard drugs.

“Back to Black”

Despite her personal troubles, Winehouse was on the cusp of international success. Her sophomore effort “Back to Black” was released in 2006, with production by Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi. The album took cues from girl groups of the past, and added contemplative lyrics about Winehouse’s life. That was the magic formula that made the album an international smash. It won five Grammy Awards, and was the United Kingdom’s best-selling record of 2007.


“Back to Black” generated numerous singles, many of which were inspired by her relationship with Fielder-Civil. However, her most famous track was based on her struggles with addiction: “Rehab” became a signature tune for Winehouse.

Downward Spiral

Hot on the heels of this triumph, Winehouse married her beau in 2007. Unfortunately, this did nothing to stop her bad habits: she continued showing up to shows inebriated and even got booed off the stage by U.S. crowds. Tabloids followed her violent outbursts, arrests and general bad behavior, and it was reported she suffered a drug overdose. Finally, her tour plans were put on hold to address her health.

Old Habits Die Hard

Winehouse did eventually go to rehab, but constantly slid back into her old habits. In 2008, a video allegedly showing the star smoking crack cocaine surfaced, and soon she began experiencing breathing problems due to her excessive use of that drug. She reportedly gave up illegal drugs at that point in a bid to save her life, but still battled alcoholism.

Possible Comeback

Meanwhile, Winehouse’s husband was jailed for several months, during which time Winehouse seemingly moved on from their codependent relationship, and performed live to varying degrees of success.


The pair’s divorce in 2009 coincided with the early stages of Winehouse’s comeback. Unfortunately, this fast-living star did not release another album in her lifetime: on July 23rd, 2011 Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home after she ingested lethal levels of alcohol.

Posthumous Releases

Outpourings of grief followed her death. The Tony Bennett duet “Body and Soul” was released to mark what would have been her 28th birthday, and it later showed up on the posthumous album “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” which included tracks Winehouse recorded before her death. In fact, the singer left many recordings, which were released in the years that followed.


Though this singer was troubled with addiction, mental health issues and the paparazzi throughout her life, she left introspective, timeless and unique music that will last beyond her lifetime. Amy Winehouse will be remembered as one of the most popular British female singers in history, and one of the most talented and troubled vocalists of our time.

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