The last few years in the life of Amy Winehouse were a slow descent into darkness. Much has been made of her last days, but the truth was that Winehouse began to quickly unravel following the major success of 2006’s Back to Black. A relapse into drug addiction after a failed rehabilitation, an engagement to her ex-boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil, and the unrelenting attention from the paparazzi caused Winehouse to enter into a permanent spiral.
By 2011, Winehouse’s life and career were a mess. A planned European tour for the summer of that year was cancelled after Winehouse showed up visibly drunk and confused at the trek’s first gig in Belgrade. Although she had made demos and even met with longtime producer Salaam Remi, Winehouse had yet to officially start the recording process for her third album and hadn’t recorded professionally since contributing to Quincy Jones’ 2010 album Q Soul Bossa Nostra.
That changed in March of 2011 when Winehouse received a call from one of her heroes: jazz legend Tony Bennett. “I kept saying to myself, ‘Who sings the right way?'” Bennett recalled in the 2015 documentary Amy. “When I heard Amy Winehouse, I immediately thought, ‘This one’s got it.'” Bennett asked Winehouse to duet with him on his album Duets II, trading verses on one of Winehouse’s favourite songs, the jazz standard ‘Body and Soul’.
Footage of the recording session was filmed for a potential video album or music video, and behind the scenes footage of Winehouse shows her being nervous and apologetic to Bennett when a take breaks down. She insists that she doesn’t want to waste his time, with Bennett reassuring her that things are going well and that they will take all the time that they need to get it right. By the final take, Winehouse and Bennett are at ease, and a warm hug follows the final lines of what would be the master take.
Unlike the videos of her that had been circling at the time, Winehouse appears sober and composed during the Bennett session. She’s also seen laughing with Bennett about making her dad jealous with the footage, turning her nerves into fuel for her performance. Bennett is quick to compliment her performance when she gets down on herself, and together they create a classic final product.
Bennett calls Winehouse “a natural true jazz singer” when reflecting on the recording session in Amy, citing her nervousness as being indicative of wanting to get the song right. Winehouse appears extremely happy when the final take is cut, but only three months later, the cancellation of her European tour would provide yet another setback. When she passed away in September of that year, ‘Body and Soul’ wound up being her final recording.
Watch the video of ‘Body and Soul’, containing footage of Winehouse’s final recording session, down below.