The stunning talent of Amy Winehouse is clear for all to see in the iconic hits that she has left behind following her sad passing in 2011. But while songs like ‘Rehab’ and ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ are musical heirlooms in waiting, it was her ability to cover other artist’s work that put her out on her own as one of the 21st century’s finest singers.
The clip below shows Winehouse performing ‘Stagger Lee’ at the Arena Anhembi Summer Soul Festival in January of 2011. The festival took place in São Paulo, Brazil and saw Winehouse taking on the traditional folk song first recorded by Herb Wiedoeft. It was later a chart hit for Lloyd Price in 1959 hitting #1 in the US and ranking highly as one of the greatest songs of all time.
The track is known by lots of different names, ‘Stagolee’, ‘Stackerlee’, ‘Stack O’Lee’, and many more. It’s a popular folk song based on the murder of William “Billy” Lyons by the now-notorious Stagger Lee Shelton, the shooting took place on Christmas Day. Although Nick Cave didn’t cover this exact song on 1996’s Murder Ballads, he did draw on the same inspirational figures in the story.
It was covered by a host of artists such as Ike and Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, however, and it represents a cherished musical moment for America. It also represents a massive challenge for any artist, yet Amy Winehouse stands up to the challenge.
Performing the track flawlessly as part of the second half of her set at the festival, Winehouse hits every captivating note. The sad fact of this clip is that it’s a reminder of both Amy’s wondrous talent and her heartbreaking ending. The footage below shows Amy just a few short months before that moment but still, when singing, as the shining diamond she was.