Music, like life, is unfortunately filled with tragic tales, moments of ‘what if’ and sliding door situations that leave us in gut-wrenching pain. One such event was the tragic death of young Amy Winehouse. The acclaimed singer was a monumental figure in British music when she passed and left behind a small but incredibly strong canon of work. Below, we’re picking out our 10 favourite songs in appreciation of the late singer.
Amy Winehouse sadly passed away due to alcohol poisoning on July 23rd 2011. Ever since that moment, the comprehension of her loss to music because more and more apparent. Having studied as part of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Winehouse made her name as the thinking man’s pop star. More concerned with acclaim than fame, Winehouse was unlike any other singer around.
The talent of Amy Winehouse seemingly knew no bounds after she burst onto the scene with her seminal album Frank in 2003. Providing an unusual pop icon for the glitzy noughties, Winehouse had the look of a vintage queen, the voice of a jazz genius and the heart of the finest blues singer, it meant her collaborations were always a little out of the ordinary.
Winehouse’s influence on music was immediate and the copy-cat singers sprung up overnight, once the singer’s iconography grew. However, one thing that endeared Winehouse to the British public, in particular, was her authenticity.
On all of the songs below, Winehouse imbues the lyrics and music with her every breath and heartbeat. She gives her soul to the music and asks for nothing in return. It’s what made her a bonafide legend.
Amy Winehouse 10 best songs:
10. ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’
As is customary, we tried to avoid cover songs when brining you the greatest tracks from our favourite singers but Winehouse’s covers are legendary so we had to find room on the list for a couple. One such cover is this undeniably brilliant cover of Carole King’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’
The song was originally featured as part of the Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason soundtrack and lands as one of Winehouse’s better vocals. So much so, that after her untimely death, friend and collaborator, Mark Ronson took the vocals and created a fuller song including backing from the Dap Kings. It was one of the more poignant moments from her posthumous release Lioness.
9. ‘Body and Soul’
The song that arguably would mean the most to the classic singer Winehouse was her duet with none other than the legendary Tony Bennett. Recorded in 2011, it sadly remains the final recording Winehouse would ever make, and she got to sing her favourite song with her favourite artist of all time.
Bennett issued a statement upon hearing of Winehouse’s sad passing: “Amy Winehouse was an artist of immense proportions and I am deeply saddened to learn of her tragic passing. She was an extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist and I am truly devastated that her exceptional talent has come to such an early end.
“She was a lovely and intelligent person and when we recorded together she gave a soulful and extraordinary performance. I was honoured to have the opportunity to sing with her.”
8. ‘Fuck Me Pumps’
Amy Winehouse quickly made her name as one of the most soulful singers Britain had ever produced. Well-versed in the pain and torment that soul and the blues needs, this kicky-number from her debut record Frank is a joyful refrain from her otherwise melancholy output.
Released as a targeted slight on the Footballer’s Wives generation, Winehouse makes it clear that she is her own woman on this song. Using her growing lyrical power, Winehouse scythes the scene in half with some of her most vicious lines.
7. ‘Stronger Than Me’
If you wanted an unadulterated taste of what the young Amy Winehouse had intended to sound like then her debut single is the best place to start. Not exactly setting the world alight, only just breaking the top 100, her command of the song showed that Winehouse had guts and knew her direction.
The hip-hop beats in the song are nothing new to Winehouse. An avid lover of the genre she was even part of her own Salt N Pepa homage known as Sweet N Sour. On ‘Stronger Than Me’, the writing is on the wall, Winehouse was a fierce and determined artist who needed the acclaim she deserved and she got it, in 2003 the song won the Ivor Novello Award.
Of course, the most lucrative collaboration on a song came not on stage as a duet but as part of the team that delivered her seminal album Back To Black and, most notably, the radio-ready single ‘Valerie’.
An instant bop when it was originally released by indie band The Zutons to pub dancefloor acclaim but the track took on new life under the tutelage of Mark Ronson and in the hands of Amy Winehouse. The song made Winehouse into a bonafide pop star almost overnight and ensured that she remained in the spotlight.
5. ‘Tears Dry on Their Own’
It is here that we begin to see Winehouse’s preferred wheelhouse—the lamenting love song. On ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’, the singer quickly showed us all that she was a legend in the making. The song was taken from her seminal record Back To Black and showed her burgeoning pin-up credentials as she flirted with nostalgia in a fresh new way.
The song is orchestrated around a sample of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1967 classic ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and has all the makings of a similarly well-thought-of future hit. Quietly uplifting, the song is easily one of Winehouse’s undying anthems.
4. ‘Love Is A Losing Game’
There is something utterly timeless about this piece from Amy Winehouse. A song which could easily be mistaken for a classic piece of ’60s girl-group pop singing is wonderfully underpinned by Winehouse’s sharps as a needle wit and lyrical content. It’s a soul ballad with a fresh new twist.
Winehouse was never one to shy away from putting herself on the page, in fact, most of her songs are autobiographical and this one presented a similar story. Never able to truly find the right balance of crazed passion and comfort, Winehouse used her songs as an open therapy session, her passing only adding further tragedy to the lyrics. This has to be considered one of the singer’s very best pieces of work.
As with any star who has tragically lost their lives in the view of the public eye, or even because of it, there is a slightly bittersweet quality to this track. The song which broke Winehouse and turned her into a household name is rightly imbued with quintessential Winehouse quality, but it’s also a reminder of the intense fame which contributed to her death.
Looking simply at the song and it’s very easy to see how Winehouse quickly became the talk of Britain. In the UK, she became a star overnight. With her unabashed personality, her proclamation of refusing to give up on booze and her incandescent love for retro music made her a winner in everybody’s eyes. The fact that her voice was unparalleled only sweetened the deal.
2. ‘You Know I’m No Good’
Another song which is deeply affected by Winehouse’s passing is ‘You Know I’m No Good’. Listening back to 2006’s Back To Black will often help form an opinion on the singer’s demise but taken in isolation it’s hard to see this song as anything but a piece of songwriting genius.
However, when she sings “I told you I was trouble” it is extremely hard to ignore the life behind the notes. The poignancy of the song has certainly added extra gravitas to the track but to think of this as purely a revisionist sentiment would be to miss the point entirely. This is Winehouse at her peak.
1. ‘Back to Black’
Amy Winehouse will be remembered as a classic singer, as a ferocious performer and sadly, as a tragedy of the music business. One forever friend she had in the industry was Mark Ronson who described her as his “musical soulmate”. The duo worked together on a number of projects but he also had a hand in the greatest song she ever produced, the beautiful, honest and heartbreaking ‘Back to Black’.
In the song, Winehouse lays out her failing relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil on the slab and goes about dissecting it for a live audience. Her honesty is arresting and the beauty with which she produces the bone-crushing notes is something that will never be forgotten.
In the millions upon millions of songs that have been produced over the years, there are very few that can make you truly feel the emotion the singer is emitting. For Winehouse, you can count most of her canon in that list. On ‘Back to Black’ you’ll have a hard job hiding those tears—simply breathtaking.