Amy Winehouse was a truly timeless artist, one who significantly altered the landscape of popular music. Such was the meteoric rise to critical acclaim, it felt like only moments after she shot into the public consciousness that we were collectively left in a state of mourning following her tragic death.
Winehouse triumphed and pioneered a new approach to pop music; she bucked the trends when it came to mid-noughties popstars. Her true artistry and unavoidable star qualities made her a British iconoclast who’ll be cherished for eternity. Her talent seemingly knew no bounds after she burst onto the scene with her staggering debut album Frank in 2003, but it was on the seminal Back To Black that landed the late singer her iconic status and led to her wondrous US TV debut on March 12th, 2007.
The release of ‘Rehab’ in 2006 gradually took the world by storm, and her life was never the same again. The song eventually took her to the David Letterman show, where America finally hopped aboard on the Winehouse train and took her to their hearts.
Despite Back To Black coming out in 2006, following the Letterman performance of ‘Rehab’, the album slowly started to climb up the Billboard Chart and eventually reached number two. Just two months after lighting up Letterman, the record turned gold before going platinum in July, then double platinum the following March.
The record stood out like a welcomed sore thumb in a pool of vanilla-pop and manufactured fakes. Winehouse’s authentic approach shone through like a beacon of light and made America fall in love with the new princess of pop, a figure who had an aura to her that made her a modern-day Janis Joplin.
The popular musical landscape pre and post Back To Black are two different beasts, with flocks of major labels trying to mould signings into becoming the next Amy Winehouse. In truth, nobody has come close to recapturing what Winehouse did since, and who knows if anybody ever will.
Following her US TV debut, ‘Rehab’ became Winehouse’s signature track, one with it ended up becoming an internationally adored anthem that epitomised her talent. It went onto win three Grammy Awards at the 50th ceremony, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. On top of that, the track led Winehouse to win an Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song.
The song was born out of a conversation she had with producer Mark Ronson and, remarkably, only took her a couple of minutes to conjure up the hook for an all-time classic. “I was walking down the street with Amy,” Ronson said to Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1 during a special broadcast following Amy’s passing in 2011. “We were in New York, and we’d been working together for about a week and we were walking to some store,” he added. “She wanted to buy a present for her boyfriend and she was telling me about a specific time in her life that I feel bad, talking about a friend like this, but she hit, like, a certain low and her dad came over to try and talk some sense into her.
“And she was like, ‘He tried to make me go to rehab and I was like, ‘Pfft, no no no.’ And the first thing I was like, ‘ding ding ding ding ding.’ Like, I mean I’m supposed to be like, ‘How was that for you?” and all I’m like is, ‘We’ve got to go back to the studio’,” the producer reminisced.
Although Winehouse was already a household name in the UK before this performance, her showing on Letterman has gone down in the legendary programme’s history. In the age of social media, TV appearances don’t have the same impact they once did. The day’s of seeing a star being born before your eyes on television are long gone, which only adds more gravitas to how Winehouse wowed America with this awe-inspiring performance of ‘Rehab’.