Watch: Celebrating Amy Winehouse's Birthday: E! News Rewind
Amy Winehouse may have considered herself less of a star and more of a smoldering candle casting a dim glow over the booze-soaked patrons in a smoky basement club, adding to the romantic danger of it all.
But not many flames burned as brightly as hers did before the addiction she commemorated in song extinguished her light when she was only 27 years old.
Winehouse had a lived-in voice that dripped with experience and belied her youth, as if she was born to warble torch songs; a musicality that defied her era; and a seemingly bottomless well of despair from which she conjured her raw, self-deprecating lyrics over the course of two albums released during her lifetime.
The English artist would have turned 38 on Sept. 14, and both her music and her impact on fellow artists endures, as does her parents' work in her name to help at-risk youth in London through the Amy Winehouse Foundation, started 10 years ago.
"The songs I got signed on were the songs that I wrote completely on my own, and if it wasn't for her, that wouldn't have happened," Adele said while performing in Boston on Winehouse's birthday in 2016. "And so I owe 90 percent of my career to her."
"The methodology behind what I've done is that, when they wanted me to be sexy, or they wanted me to be pop, I always f–kin' put some absurd spin on it that made me feel like I was still in control," Lady Gaga says in her 2017 documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. "So you know what? If I'm gonna be sexy on the VMAs, and sing about the paparazzi, I'm going to do it while I'm bleeding to death and reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe, the original Norma Jean, and what it did to Anna Nicole Smith, and what it did to…." She paused. "Yeah. You know who."
About a week after Winehouse died on July 23, 2011, a "devastated" Gaga said on The View, "I just think the most unfortunate thing about it all is the way that the media spins things, like, 'Oh, here, we can learn from Amy's death.' I don't feel that Amy needed to learn any lessons. I felt that the lesson was for the world to be kinder to the super-star. Everybody was so hard on her, and everything that I knew about her was she was the most lovely and nice and kind woman."
Nothing has been revealed over the years to alter that perception. And it was immediately apparent in hindsight that the trajectory of Winehouse's rise and well-documented fall, and the speed at which her life spun out of control once she was in the public eye, proved to be a vicious cycle. Eventually no one expected any more—or less—from Amy than antics.
In 2008, during a period when Winehouse was holed up in her house and paparazzi were regularly camped outside, her manager at the time, Raye Cosbert, told Britain's Sunday Times, "She feels deeply uncomfortable in the world of VIP celebrity. It's unfortunate that you can't teach somebody how to deal with fame." And, he added, he knew plenty of male artists who did plenty of drugs, but Winehouse was singled out for heightened scrutiny because she's "a small-framed Jewish lady from north London."
The tragedy of it is that all Amy Winehouse ever cared about was making music—she was shocked when someone gave her a break "because," she told Rolling Stone, "I didn't think it was special to be able to sing"—and being in love. And yet the increasingly self-destructive spectacle that was her proving she didn't care what anybody thought of her—making it clear how bored she was with Bono, wandering around outside in her bra—turned into a show in itself.
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