This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #282: Back to Black by Amy Winehouse.
As July 23rd, 2021 came and went, it marked tenth anniversary of day that singer, Amy Winehouse passed away. Winehouse died when she was 27, joining other young artists such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and artist, Jean Michel Basquait; all who gave so much and died too soon. Amy Winehouse died from acute alcohol poisoning. Toxicology reports stated that at the time of her death, she had over 5x the legal limit of alcohol in her blood stream. During her career, Amy Winehouse released a grand total of two studio albums. But, from those two albums, she won 6 Grammy Awards, 3 Ivor Novello Awards for Best Songwriting in the UK, A Brit Award, several MTV Awards and multiple other awards. Her albums, “Frank” and “Back To Black” sold millions of copies each. For a brief while, Amy Winehouse was the biggest star in the UK and one of the brightest lights in the music business anywhere in the world.
Amy Winehouse grew up in musical family. Her uncles were all Jazz and concert musicians. Her parents regularly played music by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington. Winehouse was a member of the National Jazz Youth Orchestra as a child and, by the time she hit her late teens, she was singing in clubs and was being courted to sign recording contracts. In fact, Amy Winehouse was all of 19 years old when she recorded and released her debut album, “Frank”. “Frank” produced the hit, “Stronger Than Me”, which was nominated for The Mercury Prize (Britain’s Grammy equivalent) and which earned her the first of two Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting. Oh yes, not only did Winehouse sing with the soul of an old Blues person, she wrote most of her own songs, too. One of the things that was always said about Winehouse was that she was an authentic link between the great Blues, Jazz and Soul performers of the past while, at the same time, appearing to be so fresh and original and ahead of her time.
But, to feel the Blues so deeply within your soul is to know things that ordinary people never know. For such a prodigious talent, Amy Winehouse was, also, a person with a tortured heart. She is famously known for her battles with drug and alcohol addiction. These demons haunted her throughout her young life and manifested themselves in episodes of violence toward others (including those she lived and/or worked with), as well as, in concert performances where she was too intoxicated to perform properly and was booed off of the stage. It is easy to look at someone like that and claim that she was an irresponsible partier who simply went too far with her extreme behaviour. But, to say that is to not know how addiction works; especially under the blazing hot spotlight being shone upon her twenty-four hours a day by the paparazzi in the UK. To be creative on a genius-type level can’t be easy. Not that I have any first-hand knowledge but, I would imagine that when you are so far advanced at such a young age, being “normal” must be as alien a concept for someone like her, as being a mega-superstar would be for someone like me. In 2011, Amy Winehouse had experienced a series of disastrous performances and was sent home by her own record company to recover and heal. They gave her an unlimited amount of time to “get better”. She had just started to assemble new material for, what would’ve been, her third album, when time ran out and Amy Winehouse passed away. The third album has never been released.
In the wake of her death, her parents established a foundation in her memory that is called “The Amy Winehouse Foundation”. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide assistance and mentoring for troubled youth. While the death of Amy Winehouse is quite tragic, her life and career helped inspire the next wave of deep-voiced female singers such as Adele. Her beehive hairdo was a direct show of respect to the 1960s Soul singers; especially, Ronnie Spector and, helped to shine a new light on the work of many of these talented ladies, too. Although the number of songs of hers we have to enjoy is small, her legacy is grand. The song you will get to hear is called, “Back to Black”. It was written by Winehouse and produced by Mick Ronson (who was soon to help Bruno Mars with “Uptown Funk”). The song is about a girl who loses her boyfriend because he left her for a previous girlfriend. From what I have read, this song is based on real events from her own life. In real life, the man in the song ended up reuniting with Winehouse and marrying her. He is, also, credited with having introduced Winehouse to heroin. What is love, eh?
So, without further delay, here is the incomparable Amy Winehouse, with “Back to Black”. What a song! Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Back To Black” by Amy Winehouse, can be found here.
The link to the official website for “The Amy Winehouse Foundation”, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Amy Winehouse, the performer, can be found here.