Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Amy Winehouse - Biography

All you need to know about Back to Black singer Amy Winehouse

amy winehouse
Share this:

Amy Winehouse early life

Amy Jade Winehouse was born on September 14, 1983, in the London suburb of Southgate to Jewish parents Mitchell, a taxi driver, and Janis, a pharmacist. 

The couple parted ways when Amy was nine and her elder brother Alex was 13. As a child she was "always very self willed,'' says Mitch, ''not badly behaved... but different".

Aged just ten she set up a short-lived rap duo called Sweet 'n Sour, modelled on Salt 'n' Pepa, with best friend Juliette Ashby. Amy was the sour element.


At 12, she enrolled at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, but three years later was asked to leave for having her nose pierced and failing to keep up with her studies. During her time there, she later recalled, she was often given solos that required a sexy, husky jazz-style voice.

Up to that point her family hadn't been aware of the extent of her vocal abilities. ''I went to see her in a recital and I thought she'd just be acting,'' remembers Mitch. ''But then she came out on the stage and started singing, and I couldn't believe it. I never knew she could sing like that."

The budding vocalist went on to study at the Brit Performing Arts School in Croydon, South London, where fellow alumni include Leona Lewis and Katie Melua. By the time she was 16 she was singing professionally after her friend, soul singer James Tyler, sent her demo to a record company scout.

Start of career

Amy Winehouse holding her Ivor Novello award© Dave M. Benett

It was her 2003 debut album Frank that really got her noticed, producer Mark Ronson said it began to bring ''a rebellious rock and roll spirit back to popular music". Apart from two songs on the album, all the lyrics which are characterised by a brutal honesty were written by Amy.

Frank won her comparisons to jazz greats Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughn, with her voice being described by The Times as ''earthy, warm, lived-in and astonishingly versatile''. The album earned her two Brit Award nods, put her on the shortlist for the Mercury Music album of the year, and delivered a prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award in 2004 for the track Stronger Than Me.


It wasn't just her vocal style attracting attention, however. The singer was also making headlines with her ubiquitous beehive 'do, Cleopatra-style eyeliner and panoply of tattoos. She had her first tattoo inked at the age of 15 it was Betty Boop on her back - and has since added over a dozen more, including the phrase 'daddy's girl' and the name of her late grandmother, Cynthia.

Later career

After Frank, Amy didn't write anything for 18 months. After meeting influential music producer Mark Ronson, however, the talented songwriter was inspired to pen Back To Black, the best-selling album of 2007. The first single released from the album was Rehab, aimed at her former management company which tried unsuccessfully to persuade her to enter a rehabilitation facility.

The track brought her to the attention of a global audience. It also won an Ivor Novello best contemporary song award in 2007 and led to Amy being named Best British Female at the Brit Awards and artist of the year at the MTV Music Awards. The songs in Back To Black ''wrote themselves'' she says.

They chart her tempestuous relationship with her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, variously described as a music video assistant and film runner. She married him secretly during a trip to Florida in May 2007, but was divorced by 2009.

Health and death

Amy Winehouse in back of car wearing pink shirt and jeans© Sylvia Linares

Hand in hand with her professional success went a very public battle with her demons. During 2006 and 2007 her exhaustive schedule took its toll, as did her dependence on alcohol, leading her concerned parents to fear for her health, with the singer admitting to self-harming

After failing to show up for gigs and making several erratic appearances on TV she finally agreed to enter rehab in January 2008. The following month the world was reminded of the real reason behind her fame her prodigious talent when she accepted five Grammy awards. Despite the continued recognition of her musical talent, Amy did not intend to devote her life to music-making. '

I know I'm talented, but I wasn't put here to sing,'' she told Rolling Stone magazine in 2007. ''I was put here to be a wife and a mom and look after my family. I love what I do, but it's not where it begins and ends."

Unfortunately, the dream was never realised. On July 23 2011, she was found dead in her Camden home, plunging her family, fiancé Reg Traviss, and millions of fans into mourning.

More Profiles

See more