The Life and Legacy of Jewish Singer Amy Winehouse: Born on September 14, 1983
On This Day in Jewish History: September 14, 1983 — a momentous date marking the birth of Amy Winehouse, a Grammy-winning vocalist whose life and legacy continue to captivate fans worldwide.
Born in London to a Jewish family, Amy Winehouse grew up immersed in a culturally Jewish environment. She adhered to traditions such as celebrating holidays and enjoying Shabbat dinners with her family. Winehouse, whose surname was originally spelled Wienhause, was largely raised by her mother, a pharmacist. This followed her parents’ divorce, which took place when Amy was just 9 years old.
From a young age, Amy Winehouse’s life and legacy were influenced by music. She often performed duets with her father and brother, citing her paternal grandmother, Cynthia, as a significant inspiration for both her fashion sense and her passion for jazz music. Amy attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School between the ages of 13 and 15 but was reportedly expelled for wearing a forbidden nose ring. Subsequently, she enrolled in the prestigious BRIT School. By the age of 16, she was already performing with jazz groups, thanks to a classmate who passed her demo tape to a record label.
Winehouse’s debut album, “Frank” (2003), showcased her extraordinary lyrical abilities and smoky jazz vocals. This work drew comparisons between her and rhythm and blues legends like Billie Holiday. The acclaim continued with her sophomore album, “Back to Black” in 2006. Featuring a unique blend of 1960s/1970s Motown soul, “Back to Black” made history by debuting at number 7 on the US charts—the highest ever for a British woman. The album sold 1 million copies by the end of summer 2006 and earned her an Ivor Novello Award for best contemporary song.
Amy Winehouse, instantly recognizable for her beehive-styled jet-black hair and Cleopatra-style eye makeup, had her fair share of personal struggles. She battled drug and alcohol addiction, leading to difficulties in obtaining a U.S. visa. Consequently, she was unable to attend the 2008 Grammy Awards in person, but a special satellite performance was arranged. That night, she received five Grammy awards, including those for best song and best recording for “Rehab.”
As her addiction issues escalated, Amy Winehouse’s life and legacy seemed to be overshadowed by her struggles. A comeback tour planned for 2011 was hastily cancelled after she appeared intoxicated on opening night. Tragically, she passed away a month later from alcohol poisoning, at the age of 27.
Winehouse’s legacy, however, lives on. Her posthumous duet with Tony Bennett, “Body and Soul,” won a Grammy. Later in 2011, “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” a compilation of unreleased tracks, covers, and demos was released. More recently, the 2015 documentary “Amy,” chronicling her career, won the Academy Award for best documentary. Her sultry vocals and deeply personal lyrics continue to inspire future generations of vocalists. May her memory be a blessing.