‘Amy’ hits our screens today – a documentary film about the epic singer Amy Winehouse. Featuring a tonne of unreleased and private material, it promises to be emotionally charged and raw, and is said to tell Amy’s story largely through her eyes and in her own words.
It’s been almost four years since the singer’s death from accidental alcohol poisoning. Love or hate the movie, there are many other reasons to remember Amy than her very public battle with drink and drugs. Her music was always on point and inspired fans and other artists alike. She won multiple awards, was adored by millions of fans around the world, and paved the way for a new era of music.
As well as penning some incredible lyrics, she spoke some great words of wisdom too. Here are five ways Amy inspired us.
1. “If you don’t throw yourself into something you’ll never know what you could have had.”
It’s clear that Amy’s deepest passion was her music, something she threw herself into from an early age, having been influenced by her jazz-playing uncles, and her grandma who dated jazz legend Ronnie Scott. Her jazz, blues, reggae, and soul style was pretty unusual for someone her age and she never predicted to hit the big time with it. But when she did, she opened up a new musical world for millions. Her voice and sometimes heart-breaking lyrics won her critical acclaim, record-breaking sales and armfuls of awards to go alongside them.
Amy was the first British female to win five Grammys. She won three Ivor Novella Awards and a 2007 Brits Award for Best British Female artist. After her death her album Back to Black became the UK’s best-selling album of the 21st century, at that point.
As Amy proved, doing something you love and using all your passion to do it, can get you places you’d never have imagined.
2. “I fall in love every day not with people but with situations.”
A side of Amy that received little media attention was her passionate commitment to charitable causes, especially those involving children. She was named “the most charitable act” by Pop World and supported charities such as Save The Children, The Teenage Cancer Trust, WaterAid, and many many more. She was even affectionately known as the ‘soft touch’ by the charity world who knew she’d always be open to hear what help was needed.
It certainly wasn’t the limelight that drove her charitableness. She supported local causes and big international charities equally. For example, she donated around £20,000 worth of clothes to a local North London charity shop, and paid for the medical treatment of a man, Jean DeBaptiste, she met in Saint Lucia in 2009. “I had surgery on 1 July 2009 … it cost a fortune and Amy paid for the whole thing. I tried to thank her but she just hugged me and told me not to say anything. Her generosity gave me my life back.”
3. “I say things in songs that I wouldn’t even admit to myself looking in the mirror.”
Amy’s lyrics were sometimes heart-breakingly honest, giving an insight into a troubled and gifted artistic soul. “And I tread a troubled track, my odds are stacked, I’ll go back to black.”
It was this rawness of emotion that often helped listeners to relate her music with their own struggles. This MTV.com reader’s comment is just one example of the effect her music had, “In 2006 i was going through the roughest part in life with recent brake up [sic]. Through Amy’s music I found solice [sic]. Till this day I listen to her tracks on a daily basis her talent and voice bring such emotional joy to my life. She was and will always be the greatest voice and talented artist to me.”
4. “My greatest fear is probably dying with no one knowing of any contribution I’d ever made to creative music.”
Despite dying a young death, Amy didn’t need to fear about her lack of contribution to music. As well as all the incredible awards, album sales, and tours, she really did pave the way for a new kind of music in mainstream pop culture.
Adele and Duffy have both credited Amy with making their successes in the US charts “a bit smoother”. Lady Gaga has said that without Amy’s music it would have been harder for unconventional women like her to have mainstream pop success.
She’s also influenced artists like Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sande, Jessie J, Lana Del Ray, and Glastonbury headliner Florence Welch. Spin magazine music editor Charles Aaron said, “Amy Winehouse was the Nirvana moment for all these women…They can all be traced back to her in terms of attitude, musical styles or fashion.”
5. “I think that we have to be aware that people are allowed to make mistakes.”
Unfortunately, Amy became as renowned for her battle with drug and alcohol addiction as she did for her supersonic soulful voice. She suffered from bi-polar disorder (also known as manic depression) telling Stern magazine back in 2007, “Since I was 16, I’ve felt a black cloud hangs over me. Since then, I have taken pills for depression.” Amy entered rehab a number of times and was forced to cancel numerous performances for health reasons.
Very fittingly after her death, her dad, Mitch Winehouse, launched the Amy Winehouse Foundation. The Foundation supports organisations that help vulnerable young adults with problems such as addiction. It also aims to support, inform and inspire disadvantaged young people to help them reach their full potential.
If you catch ‘Amy’, which is out in cinemas today, let us know what you think. In the meantime we’ll leave you with a video of her performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2007 where she completely slays it.