For many people with an avid interest in music, there is almost always at least one clear moment in their lives that has a profound effect on the formulation of their adult music taste. For me, one of the most special musical moments was hearing Amy Winehouse for the first time. It was 2006, I was in Year 8 at school, and ‘Rehab’ was on the radio.
I had grown up with soul, Motown and Rock in the house, and had never really comprehended that popular music could have a soul, and touch me in a way those tracks I heard throughout my childhood had. I loved Marvin Gaye, The O’Jays and Aretha Franklin, and felt that this music was much more important to me, and spoke to me in a way that no modern pop track could.
As a child my music taste wasn’t great. My first album was Trouble by Akon, and I didn’t love anything more than belting out ‘The JCB Song’ by Nizlopi for hours on end. Surprisingly enough, neither of these have had a long term impact on my life, musically or otherwise, (no offence Akon).
This may seem overly dramatic, but the discovery of Winehouse’s music was a real turning point for me as it gave me an insight into how influential popular music could be, and that it isn’t always about creating fun, disposable music to fill your brain for half a day before you moved on to something else.
Winehouse’s music is special, there’s no denying it. Listening to her now gives me the same feeling I had when I first did; the earth-shattering realisation that raw emotion and pain could sound beautiful. Her music came at a poignant part of my life, the turning point of child to teenager, when you start to keep secrets, try new things, and your hormones are so all over the place that it almost becomes difficult to keep a grip on your own behaviour.
The soundtrack to your teenage years is something that remains with you for the rest of your life, and although your teenage years are meant to be some of your best, mine weren’t so great (but were anyone’s really?). Listening to Amy on my 2GB iPod Nano gave me some sort of hope, and showed that feeling sad wasn’t shameful.
Soon after Discovering Amy’s music, my obsessive internet searches of her music found her 2006 performance at Other Voices in Dingle. Her effortless delivery of ‘Love is a Losing Game/ still leaves me speechless; it has that rare power that comes along once in a million performances, that forces the spectator into a state of pure focus, detaching them from whatever else is going on around them. Similarly, her performances on Jools Holland and BBC Radio One Live Lounge remain some of the best in the archives. Amy’s spectacular, effortless voice is sublime, especially live, blowing other artists well out of the water.
Back to Black, Winehouse’s second album and arguably her seminal work was released in 2006 and went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide.
Produced by Mark Ronson, this not only catapulted her into the limelight, but also kick-started his career (she went on to feature on his 2007 album Version). Amy’s signature jazz/soul style was complimented by Ronson’s love of a horn section, and perfectionism in production. ‘Valerie’, originally by The Zutons, became so classically ‘Amy’, and is arguably one of the greatest successes of their partnership.
Winehouse’s tragic death in 2011 had much more of an impact on my life than I was expecting – probably because I hadn’t appreciated how much her music influenced my life. Although I didn’t ever meet her, or really know much about her life other than what was splashed all over the tabloids until after she had died, I still felt a certain inexplicable closeness to her.
Amy had a clear and lasting impact on my life; she was the soundtrack to my youth, and remains one of my all-time favourite recording artists. Her music has played a part in so many important memories of mine, and in part, the formulation of my musical identity and tastes. She will remain one of the most influential figures in the music industry for years to come, especially in this current resurgence of soul, smooth RnB and disco infiltrating the charts.
Her memory will live on in the incredible music she created, and the privilege we feel when we catch a quiet Sunday, and just listen.
Originally from Oxford, final year sociology student at the University of Sheffield. Treasurer and presenter at the student radio station, Forge Radio, with a show about up coming music across genres. Interested in music, popular culture and society.
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