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Obituary: Amy Winehouse

image captionAmy Winehouse burst onto the British pop scene in 2003

With her gravelly voice and eclectic style, Amy Winehouse, 27, who has been found dead in London, won comparison with some of the great female singers such as Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone.

But like another great singer, Janis Joplin, she had a talent for self destruction, and fought a long battle against substance abuse.

Amy Jade Winehouse was born on 14 September 1983 in the well-to-do area of Southgate, north London.

Her taxi driver father, Mitchell, was a jazz enthusiast and often sang songs to his daughter as she grew up.

She trained at the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School from the age of eight and, by the time she was 10, had formed a rap group with one of her best friends.

Winehouse later attended the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School.

She began writing music at the age of 14 and a former boyfriend sent a tape of her singing with a jazz band to an A&R man.

Critical praise

It led to a contract with the Island/Universal record label and a publishing deal with EMI.

Her debut album Frank, released in 2003, was described by The Times newspaper as "earthy, warm, lived-in and astonishingly versatile".

She co-wrote all but two of the songs and won praise for what one reviewer described as "the cool, critical gaze" in the lyrics.

Frank was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for album of the year in 2004, and Winehouse won the Ivor Novello songwriting award for best contemporary song with Stronger Than Me.

But it was the critical praise that followed the release of her follow-up album in October 2006 that propelled her to international stardom.

Rehab, the first track released from Back to Black, reached number seven in the UK singles chart.

The song, about her refusal to attend an alcohol rehabilitation centre, generated huge publicity, with Winehouse frequently being photographed drinking on stage and in pubs.

In February 2007, she scooped the title for best British female at the Brit Awards and, four months later, she picked up song of the year at the Mojo Awards.

image captionThe singer had been plagued by problems with drug and drink addiction

Winehouse was again nominated for the Mercury Prize and went on to be named artist of the year at the MTV Europe Music Awards in November.

But as her popularity soared, her health began to suffer and her behaviour became more erratic.

She appeared to be drunk on Channel 4's The Charlotte Church Show in 2006, and took part in Never Mind The Buzzcocks in a similar state.


Her weight plummeted during an exhausting schedule of promotional appearances and concerts in the UK and US.

She admitted punching a female fan at a gig in London and attacking her boyfriend when he tried to calm her down.

She confessed to self-harming and spoke of battles with eating disorders. And she shocked a journalist from US magazine Spin when she carved the name of then-boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil into her stomach with a shard of mirror during an interview.

It was a break-up with Fielder-Civil that inspired much of Back To Black.

But she surprised fans, and her own family, when she secretly married him during a trip to Florida in May 2007.

In November of that year, there was further turmoil when Fielder-Civil was arrested and accused of inflicting grievous bodily harm and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Winehouse herself was arrested and released on bail in December 2007 but no charges were brought against her.

A month later she went into a rehab facility following the publication, by a tabloid newspaper, of pictures of a woman they claimed was Winehouse, allegedly smoking crack cocaine.

She played a number of gigs in 2008 but it became increasingly apparent that the turmoil of her private life was having a severe effect on her ability to perform.

Time out

Following a diagnosis of what could have been the onset of emphysema, she managed a creditable performance at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday concert in June 2008.

image captionAmy Winehouse secretly married Blake Fielder-Civil during a trip to Florida in May 2007

But her performance at Glastonbury a few days later was described by one critic as "dismal" and tabloid interest centred on an incident where she appeared to punch a fan.

Amy Winehouse took some time off after a slew of festival appearances in 2008.

In 2009, she was found not guilty of assaulting a burlesque dancer at a charity ball in central London.

She made a low-key return to the stage in a surprise performance at her local pub in London in October 2010.

Earlier this year, Winehouse was admitted for treatment at the Priory clinic in south-west London.

Last month, she pulled out of her European tour after she was jeered at the first gig in Serbia for appearing to be too drunk to perform.

For 90 minutes, she mumbled through parts of songs and at times left the stage - leaving her band to fill in.

In her short career Winehouse gave us just a glimpse of what might have been, before she was undone by her own personal demons.

But the songs she recorded, and the string of awards they brought her, served to underline what a talent she was.