The death of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse jolted fans and fellow musicians Saturday afternoon, shaking a community that has lost more than its share of artists to untimely deaths.
Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment July 23. Police reported Monday that an autopsy has not established a cause of death, and further toxicology tests are being performed.
Winehouse is the most recent in a line of legendary musical talents who have died at the age of 27.
Pop music critic Chris Richards was eerily reminded readers of the theories that have surfaced about deaths at that age:
“And then there was the “27” — rock-and-roll’s most dangerous number. It’s the age that took Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and now a singer whose battles with drugs, drink and depression were nightmarishly publicized in a mediascape her forebears never could have imagined.
Those forebears make up the “27 Club,” a group of musicians who all died at 27. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan of the Grateful Dead died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage linked to alcohol abuse. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones died in his swimming pool. Chris Bell of Big Star died in a car accident. So did D. Boon of the Minutemen. Delta bluesman Robert Johnson died in 1938 under mysterious circumstances — some say he was poisoned while others cite a Faustian deal with the devil. But he was definitely 27.”
Although she left a relatively small body of work — only two full albums — Winehouse earned a great deal of praise for her sultry, jazz-inflected vocals and Motown sounds. She won five Grammy Awards in 2008, including song of the year and record of the year. Winehouse was also the first artist to have two songs nominated for the Ivor Novello Awards in the same year.
But her struggles with alcohol and drugs — often captured in the lyrics of her award winning songs – led to several public gaffes, which Post writer Terence McArdle describes as “ train-wreck-style public behavior.”
“In June, Ms. Winehouse canceled a tour after she shouted “Hello, Athens!” to an audience of 20,000 in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. She appeared to be so inebriated that backup singers had to sing her songs when she proved incapable, and she was ultimately booed off the stage.
Ms. Winehouse said living dangerously generated her creativity, and she was often photographed half-dressed, wild-eyed and disheveled. The English tabloids reported she had suffered brain damage from excessive use of drugs and alcohol.”
Teresa Wiltz’s early 2007 profile of Winehouse foreshadowed the singer’s brief career, noting that her song “Rehab,” seemed all too poignant at times.
“Onstage, the more Amy Winehouse drinks, the better she sings, which is often the case. She’s the hottest voice you’ve never heard — her album hit No. 1 back home in England — but right now, at her first U.S. concert, her nerves are bedeviling her. She makes awkward chitchat in that cockney twang. Tugs distractedly at her trademark ratty do. Yanks nervously on the strapless shift that’s sliding dangerously south.
Finally, she requests an amaretto sour — to hoots of approval. It’s a part of her shtick, what her fans have come to expect.”
Celebritology reported that Winehouse’s ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, is “devastated and shattered.”
“‘I will never ever again feel the love I felt for her,’ Fielder-Civil said according to the Sun. ‘Everybody who knew me and knew Amy knew the depth of our love. I can't believe she's dead.’ Fielder-Civil is in jail serving 32 months for burglary and a firearms-related offense, according to the paper.
An outpouring of public grief and love has been voiced by fans as well as fellow musicians. Russell Brand, Lady Gaga, M.I.A. and Cobain’s widow, singer Courtney Love,are among the many who have spoken out.
“She was my musical soul mate and like a sister to me. This is one of the saddest days of my life.” — Producer Mark Ronson, who has worked closely with the singer
“Five-time Grammy winner Amy Winehouse was a dynamic performer and musician who seamlessly blended rock, jazz, pop, and soul and created a sound all her own. Her rich, soulful and unique voice reflected her honest songwriting and earned her a devoted fan following, critical acclaim, and the genuine respect and admiration of her musical peers. She will forever be remembered for her immense talent, and her music will live on for generations to come. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.” — The Recording Academy.