Remembering Amy Winehouse: 5 Must-Hear Rarities
It's been four years since Amy Winehouse left this world at 27 years old, amid a short but highly-celebrated music career and two studio albums. Her untimely passing made her an unwitting member of the "27 Club," that all-too-romanticized group of celebrities who've died of less than natural causes at the same age, including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. The singer-songwriter battled substance abuse even as she catapulted to mainstream success in 2007 with a song on that very subject, "Rehab," from her sophomore album Back to Black.
There was an inherent tension in the public's fascination with Amy while she was alive: Fans were taken with her singular voice and the "blue-eyed soul" songs she crafted with producer Mark Ronson, and they were fascinated by her unapologetically hedonistic lifestyle and her honesty. In 2007 she infamously told Blender magazine, "It's not important to me to make other people at ease. I am difficult, but that's 'cause I don’t really give a f---ck." Winehouse was talented and outspoken, but while many admired her moxie, certain media outlets and casual fans were just as quick to cast a cold, derisive eye toward her public struggles.
Winehouse's death on July 23, 2011 was shocking — if only because we seem to think our celebrities are invincible — and went on to cast a shadow over conversations about her remarkable talent. Fortunately, Asif Kapadia's 2015 Amy documentary has shifted the focus back onto her skills as a songwriter and vocalist, and provided viewers with a picture of a vibrant artist who lived with depression and was, in part, undone by the pressures of fame. Katy Perry tweeted a positive micro-review of the film, saying, "Saw the AMY doc last night... Finally saw her as a human. May she continually rest in the peace.”
While Amy's absence remains the music world's loss, her legacy is well worth celebrating. We all know and love "Valerie," but here are five excellent Amy recordings you may have missed, which don't appear on Back to Black or Frank. Take a listen, and let us know if we left out your favorite rarity.
Amy's cover of the song, which Ruby & the Romantics first made famous in 1963, ditches the original hit's bossa nova stylings in favor of a slow-skank reggae beat.
It was produced by Salaam Remi, who produced a sizable chunk of Amy's work, including "Tears Dry On Their Own" and most of the songs on Frank. Amy recorded "Our Day Will Come" when she was working on her debut, and it now appears on the posthumous Lioness: Hidden Treasures collection from 2011.
Amy's jazzy, stripped-down version of the Shirelles' 1960 hit was featured in 2004's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Slowing the track to a near dirge-like pace, Amy wrings every bit of heartache from the melody with her preternaturally world-weary voice.
Amy breathed gorgeous new life into the Phil Spector-written classic at a BBC studio session in 2006. With her band playing a whisper soft doo-wop accompaniment, Amy veers into Aretha Franklin territory and seems to regard the song with the same hushed reverence that her performance evokes in the listener.
This remix of Amy's second Back to Black single appeared on the Wu-Tang Clan member's More Fish album in 2006. Like the original track, it was produced by Mark Ronson, and Amy's vocals are the perfect anchor for Ghost's frenzied verses.
The original version of "In My Bed," on Frank, is arguably underserved by sharing the same sample as Nas' "Made You Look" (both were produced by Salaam Remi). This mix turns up the jazz influences and pushes Amy's vocals up to the front, where they belong.