LONDON (AP) — Amy Winehouse, the beehived soul-jazz diva whose self-destructive habits overshadowed a distinctive musical talent, was found dead Saturday in her London home, police said. She was 27.
Police confirmed that a 27-year-old female was pronounced dead at the home in Camden Square northern London; the cause of death was not immediately known. London Ambulance Services said Winehouse had died before the two ambulance crews it sent arrived at the scene.
Winehouse shot to fame with the album “Back to Black,” whose blend of jazz, soul, rock and classic pop was a global hit. It won five Grammys and made Winehouse, with her black beehive hairdo and old-fashioned sailor tattoos, one of music’s most recognizable stars.
“I didn’t go out looking to be famous,” Winehouse told the Associated Press when “Back to Black” was released. “I’m just a musician.”
But in the end, the music was overshadowed by fame, and by Winehouse’s demons. Tabloids lapped up the erratic stage appearances, drunken fights, stints in hospital and rehab clinics. Performances became shambling, stumbling train wrecks, watched around the world on the internet.
Released in Britain in the fall of 2006, “Back to Black” brought Winehouse global fame. Working with producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi and soul-funk group the Dap-Kings, Winehouse fused soul, jazz, doo-wop and, above all, a love of the girl-groups of the early 1960s with lyrical tales of romantic obsession and emotional excess.
“Back to Black” was released in the United States in March 2007 and went on to win five Grammy awards, including song and record of the year for “Rehab.”
The songs on “Black to Black” detailed breakups and breakdowns with a similar frankness. Lyrically, as in life, Winehouse wore her heart on her sleeve.
Even then, Winehouse’s performances were sometimes shambolic, and she admitted she is “a terrible drunk.” Increasingly, her personal life began to overshadow her career.
She acknowledged struggling with eating disorders and told a newspaper that she had been diagnosed as manic depressive but refused to take medication. Soon accounts of her erratic behavior, canceled concerts and drink- and drug-fueled nights began to multiply.
Photographs caught her unsteady on her feet or vacant-eyed, and she appeared unhealthily thin, with scabs on her face and marks on her arms.
Though she was often reported to be working on new material, fans got tired of waiting for the much-promised followup to “Back to Black.”
Occasional bits of recording saw the light of day. Her rendition of The Zutons’ “Valerie” was a highlight of producer Mark Ronson’s 2007 album “Version,” and she recorded the pop classic “It’s My Party” for the 2010 Quincy Jones album “Q: Soul Bossa Nostra.”
She also had run-ins with the law. In April 2008, Winehouse was cautioned by police for assault after she slapped a man during a raucous night out.
The same year she was investigated by police, although not charged, after a tabloid newspaper published a video that appeared to show her smoking crack cocaine.
In 2010, Winehouse pleaded guilty to assaulting a theater manager who asked her to leave a family Christmas show because she’d had too much to drink. She was given a fine and a warning to stay out of trouble by a judge who praised her for trying to clean up her act.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)