Time flies. Amy Winehouse would have celebrated her 33rd birthday this week. It’s just over five years since she died of alcohol poisoning and next month marks the tenth anniversary of the release of her signature song, Rehab.
Produced by Mark Ronson, the lead single from Winehouse’s second album Back to Black tells the story of an unsuccessful attempt by her former management company to persuade her to go into an alcohol rehab centre.
Rehab is typical Winehouse, with her deep, raspy vocal laid over a track suffused with retro R&B and soul influences. The lyrics even name-check ‘Ray’ and ‘Mr Hathaway’, references to soul legends Ray Charles and Donny Hathaway.
The song peaked at number seven in the UK and nine in the US, giving Winehouse her only US top ten entry. It still stands as her highest chart placing, although she did also later provide lead vocals on Ronson’s reworking of The Zutons’ Valerie, which reached number two.
Sadly Winehouse’s death denied us the full flourishing of her talent. Back to Black is a perfect marriage of her throwback soul, blues and jazz sound with Ronson’s ostentatious production touches. Rehab is the stand-out track, but there is also You Know I’m No Good (used as the theme for ITV’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl), the plaintive ballad Love is a Losing Game – close your eyes and you can picture her delivering her angst-ridden lyrics in a dark, smoky jazz cellar – and my favourite track, the Motown-inspired Tears Dry On Their Own.
Like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin before her, Amy Winehouse became a member of the infamous ’27 Club’ – another rising star dead at the age of 27. Her death happened just as she was coming in to her prime – too young an age for anyone to die – and the musical world is a poorer place without her unique voice and talent.