Some Unholy War..
The premature death of a well-known singer/songwriter. Someone who was and must be remembered as a groundbreaking female jazz vocalist despite her many personal problems. Her battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol sadly threatens to overshadow her best work as a talented musician.
Over the past five years, a new generation of music listeners were exposed to something more relevant, something real and heartfelt but also so universal. Amy’s music.
First and foremost, this artist must be remembered for breaking down barriers with her sound and in doing so, reaching a wider, more cultured musical audience. People like her don’t come along that often. She held the key with which to produce a type of music that could unite people and also help to console them when perhaps they themselves have been torn apart.
Kept an ‘industry secret’ around 2002 due to her obvious (money making potential) talent, it wasn’t long before she was able to form a vital working relationship with super-producer Salaam Remi through various management company’s and record labels. Remi must take much credit for majority of the production on both Frank and Back to Black and susiquent successes. Often he is slept on by those who don’t ask who else is behind this sound?..Who is crafting the melody and beats that accompany such powerful vocals? That said, the sheer emotion omitted through the songs written and recorded was apparent. As a complete package, It made Amy a unique and powerful figure in the music industry, propelled at first by her talent, backed up by her iconic image, she was a face of credible new music, an image which slowly began to decline in real-time before our eyes.
The headlines were no longer about the groundbreaking music, as they perhaps should have been, but about the physical and mental health of a desperate young woman for whom the spotlight seemed to have shone too bright and too intensely on. Unlike many ‘celebrities’ covered in the media, particularly by the British gutter press, this one was homegrown and to her fans the concerns were very real and very close-by. This almost certainly added yet more interest from the them and the general British public.
Through the media coverage, we began to see the shocking deterioration of some one who had been placed at a precarious height near the top. Amy was beginning to lose her balance.
Despite the continual popularity of music, the person at the center of it was at a place that seemingly no one else could reach her. Only great strength, determination and above all self-realization, would help her to retain composure and prevent her from falling in to the abyss. She had to help herself or soon it would be too late.
Often strongly recognized for her darker subject matter, in truth her archive contains many tracks that will inspire, encourage and enlighten for years to come. Many sense that in each song you feel you can relate, if only partly or in some small way, the sensitive nature in the subject matter was striking. For some she would have become a fictional ‘troubled best friend’ character in their life. A testament to her capabilities.
As an avid Hip-Hop listener, You wouldn’t necessarily have known just how dramatic the rise of fame was going to be for Cherry Bell. This was the name under which her performance was credited under on Jon The White Rappers ‘Get over it’ given away free on a compilation CD with the September issue of UKHH Magazine back in 2004. Around the same time Cherry or Amy Winehouse, as she was becoming better known, broke in to the top 100 album billboard chart with her first LP, the suitably entitled Frank.
Notable highlights around this time, other than all the acclaimed Music awards would be performing at the independent record store Deal Real despite her growing mainstream success along with frequenting her local bar, not far from where she resided, by just this snippet of her lifestyle Amy seemed at least partly grounded and in-touch with some on the lesser-known side of the music industry.
The ability she had allowed her to strip bare for all to see. Throughout her music was such descriptive, emotive language. To make it all fit together so poetically suggested she was nothing short of a musical genius, her work was constantly of the highest standard, despite plenty of disappointing live performances akin to her complicated lifestyle. All considered, it is a great tragedy and injustice that Amy is no longer with us to create more records.
All that was achieved in such a limited time will no doubt span far beyond the few years that made up her relatively short life.
For us, she will be remembered as one member of the small amount of truly talented artists who made it to the top and deserved their praise and recognition despite the downfall that inevitably accompanied it.
Salaam Remi has been kind enough to leak a version of Unholy War that was removed from Back to Black as Amy felt it wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the arrangement. You can find this HERE.